Kaity Veenstra switched to architecture from pre-med, at first pursuing a double major with environmental science, then channeling her efforts into research on sustainable architecture. Taking classes outside her major helped broaden her understanding of architecture within the dialogue of other disciplines and professions. “A class full of non-architects talked about architecture in the sense of, ‘Is beauty subjective or objective?’ and, ‘What belongs to the creator and what belongs to the people?’” She came away with a clearer sense of the public purpose of architecture.
Veenstra’s educational efforts toward that end have been rewarded with a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. Established through a 2001 donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the scholarship program emphasizes social leadership as well as outstanding academic ability. One of 39 students selected from among 769 applicants in the United States, Veenstra will pursue her postgraduate work at the University of Cambridge beginning next fall.
A member of the Glynn Family Honors Program at Notre Dame, the fifth-year architecture student will bring more than her knowledge of building techniques to Cambridge. Her Glynn program thesis focused on analyzing and comparing the campus master plans of Notre Dame, the University of Virginia, and Harvard. For her architecture thesis, Veenstra is designing a manufacturing trade school on a brownfield site formerly occupied by a Ford assembly plant in her hometown of Saint Paul, Minnesota.
For the past two years, she has been involved as a student analyst in The GreenScale Research Project, a program directed by Professor Aimee Buccellato in the School of Architecture that studies the broader environmental impacts of the materials and methods used in the design and construction of buildings. As part of this research experience, Veenstra worked on directed case studies and contributed to the development of a novel digital design and analysis tool for sustainable building. Veenstra says, “My work with Professor Buccellato allowed me to explore different aspects of architecture, including many tools and methods used in the design process that I might not have experienced otherwise. It is exciting to know that my contributions to the research may help expand our understanding of truly sustainable buildings in the future.”
Veenstra has shown plenty as a Notre Dame student—in the classroom and beyond. She has served as a board member of Student Activities’ Club Coordination Council, the 2012-2013 president of Student Association for Women in Architecture (SAWA), and a residential advisor in Howard Hall.
“It’s nice to look back and not feel that I missed anything,” Veenstra says. “I’ve been able to dip my toes into so many pools, student government, the Glynn Family Honors Program, research, to everything that comes with architecture, including the year in Rome, residence hall life. I’ve gotten exactly what I wanted out of my Notre Dame experience without knowing it coming in.”