The College of Architecture and Planning at CU Denver hosts an awards ceremony at the conclusion of the spring semester. The event celebrates students and their successes throughout the academic year and recognizes those who received scholarships and other awards. This year, the college introduced a bigger, bolder celebration, extending the invitation to those who make our student scholarships possible, hosting the event in a new location, the Studio Lofts at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, and introducing a brand-new award, the Evolutionary Awards.
CAP’s mission is to ignite evolution that enriches places for people and the planet, and the Evolutionary Award recognizes students, faculty, and staff who contribute profoundly to advancing our mission.
Meet the First Class of Student Evolutionary Awardees
Student awardees were selected by their respective program’s faculty.
Toby Underhill, BS Arch
Toby Underhill is one of CAP’s amazing student workers in the Design Fabrication Lab. Thanks to his experience working in the lab, Toby plans to return to CU Denver in the fall to complete his Master of Architecture degree with plans to also pursue a certificate in design build.
“Toward the end of high school, I became aware of how different architectural spaces made me feel. I realized that architecture could be an incredible tool to change the world around me and others for the better,” Toby said. “Because of this realization, I was inspired to study architecture at CU Denver so I could develop a stronger eye and mind for architectural design.”
Reflecting on his experiences in the BS Arch program, Toby recalled, “One of my favorite projects was in Studio V. With a project catered toward prototyping and experimental design, I was encouraged to build a large-scale model in order to test my group’s ideas. With help from my family, I loaded up the model in the back of a truck and drove up to the mountains to dump snow on it. That experiment was such a fun way to end the semester and my experience in the undergraduate program.”
Alexa Engle, MLA
The Master of Landscape Architecture program knits together theory and practice, focusing on bending design to achieve ergonomic and environmental balance. For Alexa Engle, the MLA program offered an experiential educational environment in which she could explore how to design spaces for anyone of any age that offers elements of playfulness, evokes curiosity, and provides a sense of comfort.
“At the end of our first semester in the fall of 2020, I wrote, ‘Somehow, in the midst of a global pandemic, I have met over 25 new people who are becoming very important very quickly. Our Zoom call study sessions and the sense of camaraderie we’ve created have been essential to making it through this first semester.’ My cohort has remained the most impactful part of this program,” said Alexa. “We’ve supported each other through celebratory moments and challenging times. We explored the Great Basin, camping under the stars and discovering all that exists in what others might view as a void. In smaller groups, we’ve traveled to Denmark, Belgium, and San Francisco. I’ve learned from my peers, grown with them, and still can’t believe we may never have met were it not for choosing to pursue Landscape Architecture at CU Denver.”
Erin Andrews-Sharer, MURP
Before attending CU Denver, Erin Andrews-Sharer spent her early career working for a home repair nonprofit organization in Central Appalachia. In Charleston, West Virginia, she was involved with a grassroots neighborhood revitalization effort, where she experienced urban planning from both a local community and government level. Through her work, she realized that urban and regional planning provides a unique approach and skillset to address community-wide challenges, including but not limited to housing.
“Housing is such a critical need and working in rural and urban areas of West Virginia it was evident to me that a person’s quality of life is so much more than housing,” said Erin. “The work in Charleston helped me see how planning and research have a role in addressing challenges at a broader scale.”
Of her experience in the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program, Erin said, “Overall I think what had the most impact on me is that the MURP faculty at CU Denver clearly care about students and teaching, and I could see that they were invested in their students’ success. It was inspiring to see and hear about how they took planning skills and put them into practice in unique ways while also committing themselves to equip a new generation of planners.”
Robert Cleary, M.Arch
Robert Cleary moved several times throughout his childhood, living in Atlanta, Georgia, Johannesburg, South Africa, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Newburyport, Massachusetts. He contributes his experiences living in many different places to his interest in architecture and design.
“When it came time to pick my undergrad major, I chose architecture because it blended my love for the arts with a desire to meaningfully contribute to the built environment,” said Robert. “After completing my degree, I moved to New York City to work as a designer and in-house photographer at a great firm. There, I learned to tell stories through image-making and weaving a project’s core concept through every facet of its design and representation. After several years, I left to pursue a developing passion for visual media and storytelling through film and advertising in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, after five years of work, my career halted when the Covid pandemic shook up the film industry and completely isolated people and their communities.”
During the pandemic, Robert began to consider returning to the career path he established in pursuit of his undergraduate degree. “While I was fortunate to spend most of the pandemic with my family, I want to recognize that not everyone had the opportunity to be with loved ones. As I watched the bravery and sacrifice of so many essential workers, I began reevaluating what I wanted my life’s work to mean and who I could impact with my time and talents,” he said. “After months of feeling like I was being called back to architecture, I applied to graduate schools to get my Master of Architecture and practice architecture with a renewed vision to design beautiful, safe, healthy spaces that enable us to weave new stories of empowerment and equity into our communities.”
Staff and Faculty Evolutionary Award Winners
The staff and faculty award recipients were selected by popular vote by CAP faculty, staff, and students. Below, we shared a sampling of remarks submitted for each winner’s nomination.
Matt Gines, Director of the Design Fabrication Lab
Nominator’s Remarks: Matt gets things done! He has done so much to evolve space in the CU Denver Building to better serve students, faculty, and staff.
Projects I am aware of include supervising the redesign and build of a new reception/security desk in the 1st-floor lobby; the redesign and construction of our new Third Floor Gallery, which has become a very popular instructional and crit space in very high demand; the reconfiguration of the storage space on the 5th floor to accommodate a mycelium lab for Assistant Professor Assia Crawford; the reconfiguration of the portfolio space on the 3rd floor to become our new Exhibitions and Archive storage; a reconfiguration of UTAP’s space on the 3rd floor, including kitchen cabinetry and installation, to become CAP’s new dedicated research space; the reorganization and consolidation of tech services to the 4th floor to create a more efficient tech hub and create additional instructional space on the 5th floor.
Additionally, Matt is always willing to entertain new projects – no matter how busy he is! I sincerely appreciate all that he does and wholeheartedly recommend we honor him with our first staff Evolutionary Award.
Jo VandenBurg, Instructor and Associate Chair of Architecture
Nominator’s Remarks: Professor VandenBurg is an excellent lecturer. She is very caring about the student body. She sees promise in students and makes sure to encourage them and give them credit where credit is due. This sets her apart from many other educators in that she withholds judgment and looks deeper into situations and conditions the individuals may be facing. I’ve seen her root for her students. This is why I believe Professor Vandenburg is more than deserving of this award.
Carrie Makarewicz, Associate Professor and Chair of Urban and Regional Planning
Nominator’s Remarks: Carrie’s commitment to making the Department of Urban and Regional Planning shine is no less than igniting a true revolution among us. Indeed, she has made clear that a revolution can begin by engaging with the community in various ways including scholarship, community-engaged research, teaching, and working with BIPOC students to show what Planning is able to offer as a career.