Glazing 101: Industry, Academia Collaboration Gives Students Hands-On Learning

Each year, students from the University of Southern California (USC) School of Architecture and experts at the Southern California Glass Management Association (SCGMA) get together for hands-on instruction. The partnership provides future architects with a realistic picture of what the profession entails alongside real-life experience.

Douglas Noble, associate dean for academic affairs at the USC School of Architecture, says the partnership has been in place for about ten years. When COVID-19 isn’t an obstacle, the two groups get together a few times each year for one-on-one instruction for students.

“Two or three experienced leaders come in, and they give us the safety talk, the history of the glazier profession and example buildings that students might know about,” Noble says. “They talk about the work they do and how they do it.”

Students then link up with apprentices from the association for practical instruction.

“The idea is to get them to talk one-on-one,” Noble says. “The students are all relatively young, 21, 22, and come from different backgrounds and skillsets. But they quickly bond.”

The students typically get to make a couple of items, including one storefront piece and another scaled-down item such as a handrail. At the same time, Noble says glaziers cement the information they relay to students into their minds, making the relationship mutually beneficial. However, with the impacts of the pandemic, a government shutdown and a few other factors, this year was a little different.

“This time, we’re building pieces we can assemble for Joshua Tree National Park,” Noble says. The students worked on five 9- by 20-foot panels. Within 18 months, those panels will be in place.

Deveney Pula, SCGMA CEO, says in-class instruction doesn’t always translate to the field. That’s where the partnership comes in.

“That’s sort of the missing piece to the puzzle,” she says. “They get it on paper and in theory, but by bringing them in and allowing them to learn through an interactive program we think they learn what they’re learning in class just a little bit better.”

“It’s just amazing to have glazier apprentices right here one-on-one showing how things are done and why,” Noble says.

Aside from benefits to individual students, Pula says the “boot camps” improve communication lines between the school and the industry. They also give glaziers a glimpse into what architects and engineers must consider while working on a project.

According to Pula and Noble, both groups experience educational benefits from the partnership and enjoy the opportunity to learn how the industry’s different facets come together to bring a project to fruition.

“We’re hoping to keep this going for as long as USC will let us do it,” Pula says.

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