As a sophomore in high school, Aria Hill already realized she wanted to go into the field of architecture and design. But at the time, she wanted to be her own person and not attend Virginia Tech as her older sister did before her.

In the summer of 2016, however, she found herself being dropped off at the School of Architecture + Design by her sister to attend the Inside Architecture + Design camp.

Her experience in the program gave her a small glimpse into what studying design would be like and solidified in her mind that she wanted to pursue an architectural education.

Now a third-year architecture student, Hill has been an orientation leader, College of Architecture and Urban Studies Ambassador, Hokie Ambassador, resident advisor, a finalist in an International Open Design Competition – and now this past summer, an instructor for Inside Architecture + Design. She was also the youngest on the student-instructor team for this past year.

“As an instructor with a couple of years of architecture school under my belt, I found myself revisiting themes of design logic and comprehension that were lost on me when I was a high school student in the program,” said Hill. “It’s fascinating being on the other side and seeing the students’ growth in just five days.” 

Structures test
Students in the 2019 Inside Architecture + Design program use a brick to perform a test on a structure made out of toothpicks. Photo courtesy Robert Dunay.

The program was founded by professors Robert and Donna Dunay in 1988 and has yielded around 1,800 graduates in its 20-year history. Inside Architecture + Design is an opportunity for rising 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students to have an immersive, introductory experience to architecture and design-related disciplines. Each session offers a course modeled around the nationally recognized curriculums of the School of Architecture + Design’s programs.   

This approach allows students to gain perspective on what it’s like to study architecture and design as well as learn more about university life. This past summer Inside Architecture + Design had 196 students from 22 states participate.

Hill enjoyed teaching alongside the instructors who taught her when she was a high school student, and she hopes to be an instructor again for Inside Architecture + Design 2020.

“Going from student to instructor and then back to student has shifted my headspace and allowed me to take a step back from how I perceive my work,” said Hill. “It’s definitely been a full-circle experience that prepared me for this year.”

There are more than 80 past participants from Inside Architecture + Design currently enrolled in the School of Architecture + Design. Registration is open to rising 10th through 12th graders and is offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

— Written by Maura Perez