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Inspiration has a habit of showing up in unexpected places. For architecture undergraduate honors student Katie Marinaro, inspiration danced by the vertical garden wall of the Quai Branly Museum in Paris. It unfolded as three-dimensional digital files produced cut limestone. And it floated in the light of the Great (Bamboo) Wall House outside of Beijing.

Marinaro has a deep relationship with inspiration, stemming from her never-ending search for new ways to learn. “You can’t really understand what you’ve read and heard until you apply it,” she says.

In 2007, with 33 students and faculty members from the College of Architecture and Planning, Marinaro swept across Europe, Asia, and Russia in an exploration of ancient and modern architecture. She was struck by the juxtaposition of sustainability elements in ancient construction and implementation of technology in modern construction to alter the environment. But what really hit home for her was seeing the impact of the building information modeling technology that architects use to dynamically grow design and generate all the necessary documentation for contractors without blueprints.

For Marinaro, who has a 3.767 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale), the World Tour/Polyark, a 15-week, intense international field study of 25 countries, was one of several immersive learning experiences over three years. “Immersive learning jump-started my college career,” she says.

She studied humanities in Rome and London and was part of the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry seminar Streams, in which students designed and built five art installations along the White River. With Ball State’s Institute for Digital Fabrication, Marinaro worked beside SHoP Architects and Indiana Limestone Fabricators professionals to learn an emerging technology that transfers design to machinery manufacturing construction materials. “Because of our work, the limestone industry now requires three-dimensional digital files,” she says. “For students to impact an industry like this is unheard of.”

In addition to her immersive learning experiences, Marinaro has also completed two internships and a summer research fellowship. Last year, her work introducing the Ball State Indianapolis Center won a prestigious Gold Addy award.

“You can’t get the same experience from a textbook,” Marinaro says.