Krysia Bussiere: Designing Woman

By Jennifer Ammoscato

 As an architect, Krysia Bussiere BA ’12 doesn’t want to just build buildings.

She wants to help build community.

 “Architects can affect change on both a social and a physical level,” The UWindsor grad says of her work at the Detroit, Mich., architectural firm, Hamilton Anderson.  

Bussiere doesn’t shy away from a challenge. When told by Dr. Veronika  Mogyorody that the University’s new Visual Arts and the Built Environment program (VABE) would be “difficult and demanding,” she was intrigued. In fall 2009, she enrolled as part of its first class.

VABE is a collaboration of the University of Windsor’s School of Creative Arts and the University of  Detroit Mercy’s (UDM) School of Architecture. It combines the study of art and architecture to give students a breadth of knowledge and experience in both disciplines. 

 For Bussiere, VABE combined very “loose” things like the visual arts with very technical things. “It was really fun,” she says. “Like solving a puzzle. I love thinking about how people move through space, or how architecture or cities can be influenced by and influence culture.  It’s thinking on so many different levels.” 

The VABE program focuses on art in the first two years. If a student’s primary interest is in visual arts, they can complete third and fourth year at the University of Windsor and graduate with a Bachelor of  Fine Arts in Visual Arts and the Built Environment.  If they are interested in pursuing architecture and qualify, in third year they can apply to the architectural program at UDM. 

For Bussiere, the goal was always architecture. “I wanted to study architecture, but I also wanted to learn the fundamentals of drawing and sculpture.”  She spent most of first year learning to draw in various mediums, as well as some painting and sculpture, which is helpful because architects need to be able to convey their design ideas visually.

 “The visual arts classes taught me how to control my hand for Modelling and drawing,” she says. “By second year, we were all so confident in our skills that we could model creatively and quickly in such great volume.”

 Bussiere spent her third-, and fourth-year co-op placements with Toronto-based B+H, one of Canada’s largest architectural firms. “I learned more and more about the architectural process.

I learned about ‘construction documents’ and how they zero in on finer details as a project progresses. Over time, I was given more and more responsibility.”

Through B+H, Bussiere worked on higher education buildings and on the Markham Pan Am Centre erected for the 2015Pan / Parapan American Games in Markham, Ont.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts in 2012 from U Windsor, part of VABE’s first graduating class. The alumna was accepted to the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture, and went on to earn her Bachelor of Science in 2013 and Master’s in Architecture in 2014.

 Bussiere joined Hamilton Anderson, a Detroit firm that handles a wide variety of projects that include architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, and interior design. 

 She initially began as an intern, but is now full time. “While you’re in school, you hear about firms from your professors and get in your mind where you’d like to work based on what they do and the people who work there.

 “Working with Hamilton Anderson appealed to me because they have a great studio environment and take on large-scale projects—but also smaller-scale projects—in the city of Detroit.”

 Detroit, freshly sprung from its term as the largest city in US history to declare bankruptcy, is working hard to transform itself. Part of this includes attracting investors and tenants to its once-bustling downtown. Hamilton  Anderson is one of the firms helping to shape its new face in an effort to reverse the exodus of businesses to the suburbs.

What Bussiere loves about her work is the range of projects she works on. “You’re constantly learning and it’s interesting.”

She also enjoys “the constant dialogue between you and the client and you and the contractor so that the work being done matches the needs, expectations and standards.”

The architecture of both Windsor and Detroit fascinates the grad. “I grew up in the area and want to learn more about its architectural background.” Of particular interest to her is Detroit, perceived by many to be on the cusp of a long-hoped for renaissance. During her UDM studies, projects frequently involved local sites in the Motor City.

 “I think it’s rare for an architectural program to focus on the Community aspect, and the need to create projects that benefit the community,” she says.

 “You came away from it with this sense that you have to be responsible with what you’re designing. We muse about the kinds of changes we can create as designers, architects, landscape architects and how we can tangibly change, because that’s what we’ve learned.”

 This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of View the University of Windsor Alumni Magazine.

Applying Outside the (Online) Box: Daniel's Engineering Story

By Daniel Fensom      Facilitated by Elyse Trudell, WorkStory Ambassador

Dan Fensom.jpg

I was quite amazed reading the stories of young, talented people on this site. In thinking of what to write for my post, it took many hours to determine how my story compared to those of successful entrepreneurs, brilliant artists and activists for social change. So I thought I would begin, from what I remember to be the first thing I wanted to become when I grew up; a professional hockey player. Upon realizing just how realistic this dream was by the young age of 14, I thought it would be time to explore other career paths; perhaps an avalanche hunter in BC, guide in Yukon or a lobster fisherman on the east coast.

I settled on attending the University of Guelph for environmental engineering. I had no idea what to expect prior to the start of second year. I always knew I had a deep passion for nature and exploring the wilderness so I figured that with my math and science credits from high school, environmental engineering would be a suitable subject. I initially thought that I would be designing wind turbines and solar panels but I was gravely mistaken. Much of what I learned in school was about water quality and treatment, air pollution and soil quality.

Although I liked and appreciated the new material I was learning, I often thought that maybe engineering wasn’t for me; maybe attending law school or completing a master’s degree would better suit me. The choice became especially difficult in my final year of university when several of my friends decided to pursue a master’s degree. I came to the conclusion that I should test the engineering job market first and if it did not pan out, I could always return to school. So I scoured the school’s job posting website, recruiting websites and top engineering firm job sites; applying to every applicable job I could. It then occurred to me that there are probably thousands of recent grads applying to these same positions with more experience and higher final grades than me. I then started to search out the smaller firms; ones not listed in the top 100 engineering firms. Although there weren’t necessarily job openings posted, I sent in my resume anyways as a general application.

My hunch worked and soon after graduating, I was lucky enough to have been offered a job at a small engineering consulting firm – XCG Consultants Ltd. It happened to be for a position that I was very intrigued by and enjoyed learning about in school. I have been at this firm now for almost a year and a half and I have really enjoyed my time there. The projects are extremely diverse and I’ve yet to work the same day twice.

The projects I am involved with are mostly water related where I simulate what happens to municipalities under extreme storm events. We then recommend solutions based on our results. As a smaller consulting firm, we do get our share of larger projects but we also get quite a few smaller projects. The smaller projects are really what provide with valuable learning experiences and the opportunity to work in a range of disciplines.

I think the variety of my work is a result of the culture surrounding smaller engineering consulting firms. Smaller companies don’t often employ many junior staff and as a result, junior staff are often assigned a number of projects of a wide variety rather than specializing in one specific task or project. Another intriguing aspect of smaller companies is the hierarchal structure. As a junior staffer, you’re often dealing directly with the senior partners and associates, thus minimizing the distance between you and the final decision makers.

Just recently I learned a valuable lesson for all job seekers. Senior managers don’t like posting job openings online. They seem to find it difficult to differentiate the people who are really passionate about the work from those who have used the same cover letters for the hundreds of other job postings. Senior managers prefer those who take the initiative of sending in their applications even though a posting online may not exist. I’m not saying applying to all the postings on a recruiting website is a bad idea, but rather diversify your applications to firms who don’t post openings online.

If you are truly passionate about a position or field of work, show it and apply where you want to work, regardless of online postings.