Ball State student earns prestigious fellowship with international firm

Topic: College of Architecture and Planning

May 14, 2007

Francesca Hernandez
Francesca Hernandez
Ball State landscape architecture major Francesca Hernandez will travel to the Middle East this summer to study the influx of Western commerce and architecture in the region.

"This is the chance of a lifetime, and I'm excited about the opportunity to represent Ball State on an international level," Hernandez said. "It's quite an honor to receive this fellowship because other students selected this year are from Harvard, Princeton and MIT."

The highlight of the 12-week fellowship is a trip to Dubai, where she will explore the effect of massive developments in the United Arab Emirates. When Hernandez returns to the states, she will present her research at Hart Howerton's New York and San Francisco offices. The firm is an international planning, architecture and landscape architecture firm that focuses on designing complete environments.

"In addition to studying Western influence on the region, I may delve into the general stylistic trends of developments in Dubai to determine whether Islamic culture is being diluted, ignored or creatively incorporated," she said.

She also is interested in researching whether sustainability is a major consideration in developments at Palm Islands, the three largest man-made islands in the world. She plans to scuba dive around the breakwaters to study the ecological effects of dredging the island that is dubbed unofficially as the "Eighth Wonder of the World."

Hernandez is no stranger to experiences that lead her out of the classroom. She has been selected as a National Wildlife Federation Fellow for 2007-08 and will work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on campus. She also participated in the Virginia C. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry in 2006 on a team that created an educational video game to teach elementary students about the natural environment.

Hernandez's eclectic interests and wide-ranging talents were a perfect fit for the video game project, and her willingness to take risks in the process contributed to an exciting and engaging learning environment for everyone, said Martha Hunt, assistant professor of landscape architecture.

"As a student, Francesca is very unusual; she has an extraordinary drive to better the world," Hunt said. "She is articulate, confident and able to convey complex ideas across disciplines."

Hernandez dedicates 10 hours a week to research and apply for scholarships.

"The Hart Howerton fellowship is much better than I thought I was going to get," she said. "But it shows that a good practice is to apply for every scholarship, fellowship and internship you're qualified for."

Hart Howerton's program is designed to provide professional mentorship to students from top design schools.

By Jody Kress

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