Faculty Profile: Architecture professor builds passion in students

Architecture programs are infamous for their difficult curriculums and long, demanding hours. But Zuzanna Karczewska, an assistant professor of architecture, looks back fondly on her time as an architecture student.

“I teach because I enjoyed being a student. After finishing my schooling and working for a while, the only way to continue was to teach,” Karczewska said. She wishes to instill a hard work ethic in all her students.

“[Students] should become obsessed with their projects,” Karczewska explained, “and not work hard for the sake of working; work hard for the sake of the pleasure they get out of it.”

Karczewska grew up in Warsaw, Poland, and came to the U.S. in 1993 to study architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and later at Cornell University.

Before teaching, Karczewska worked at two different firms. One was led by an artist and had a more artistic approach to architecture, and she worked on furniture, houses, restaurants and even museums. The second firm designed residential projects in New York City.

Photo by Karissa Erickson.

Now, Karczewska teaches all levels of architecture, starting with the first-year design studio, for which she and a colleague have been developing the curriculum. She believes that if students have a passion for architecture, they’ll see their projects as a challenge for them to overcome rather than a chore.

Karczewska enjoys the small size of our campus. She is able to get to know her students, which is not always the case at larger schools like the University of Kansas where she previously taught. It was the opportunity to teach smaller classes and the beautiful mountains that made Karczewska decide MSU was right for her.

“The relationship between the faculty and the students [at MSU] is very close and informal and yet still respectful,” Karczewska said.

Karczewska is able to understand her students’ struggles because it also “wasn’t easy” for her. When Karczewska began to study architecture, she underestimated the workload and engagement it demanded. These experiences led her to understand that, “When you start working so hard on something, you begin to have a passion for it.”

Many of Karczewska’s students understand her message that hard work pays off.

“You realize that when you put in a lot of work, the outcome is very positive,” said Samuel Harris, one of Karcaweska’s students. In Harris’s first year design class, there was a drawing project which one student complained took two hours to complete. Karczewska responded it should have taken six.

The workload of a first-year architecture student is not easy, and though Karczewska “makes life tough,” according to Harris, her students will hopefully reap the benefits later on. Her classes challenge students and encourage them to push the limits of what they can accomplish.