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Follow the Wow

UNLV architecture professor Eric Weber on how students should design and build their lives, beginning now.
People  |  Aug 18, 2014  |  By UNLV News Center
Editor's Note: 

Eric Weber, architecture professor, is among the speakers for this year’s UNLV Creates talks for new college students. The entire campus community is invited to attend the event 9-10:30 a.m. Aug. 22 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Here, he tells how a couple of key experiences shaped his life.

As part of a military family, I moved around a lot. While this sometimes made it hard to make friends, always being the "new kid" gave me a unique perspective; I saw things with new eyes that locals lived with their entire lives. This highlights the importance of traveling to new places, but also how essential it is to develop your own perspective; awareness and consciousness are crucial.

One of the most meaningful experiences for me was the year my father was sent to Spain. Seeing ancient Roman ruins, winding streets, and many other things made a profound impression on me. One day, walking to the market, I heard the church bells ringing, so I looked at the church; it was at that moment I decided I wanted to be an architect.

Getting to that goal took another 25 years; I was 12 at the time. ?

While most people don't decide on their path in life that early, the process of becoming the person you wish to be is the same. You must consciously create your future, which requires laying out your game plan, and then building toward your goal. This is designing and building your future.

As the coordinator of the UNLV School of Architecture's Design-Build Studio, I see what we do as providing unparalleled opportunities for students to begin thinking for themselves. In my view, the primary purpose of college is learning to think for yourself; this is a critical part of creating your identity. In our Design-Build Studio, students literally create something from nothing; designing their ways of seeing the world and their places in it, and then making it a reality.

Our first project was to lead UNLV's participation in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013, and we were the only U.S. team in the to finish in the top 3. We competed against USC, Stanford, CalTech/Southern California Institute of Architecture, Arizona State/New Mexico, and beat them all! We need to shout this from the rooftops! UNLV is an ideal partner in helping you build your future.

This isn't the time to do what others tell you. You have a unique opportunity to define your path, your future. Find out what makes you go "Wow! That's REALLY interesting!" If you find this and pursue it, you'll be much happier than doing what's expected. Perhaps an example from my own career will illustrate this point.

When I was in graduate school, I was tasked with defining the project for my thesis. I wrote about designing a house, and what I thought it meant to me. My advisor challenged me; she said that it could be a good project, but she told me that it would be much better if I went home over the weekend and wrote about something that was deeply personal and meaningful to me. Not something architectural, but meaningful. That piece of writing ended up going on the cover of my thesis document, and was the best work I did in college - it transformed the course of my career. In fact, it got me a job at the best architecture firm in Phoenix, and paved the way to who I am today.

If you follow the "wow," it will work for you, too.