An investment and an invitation

Mark Hartenstein, AB ’13, MBA ’14

More than a decade has passed, but I still remember the “Community Building, Building Community” course I took during my first year as a Washington University undergraduate. As a kid from suburban New Jersey, my experience of St. Louis up to that point extended about as far as Forest Park and the Delmar Loop.

Portrait photo of Mark Hartenstein

Bob Hansman, then an associate professor in the School of Architecture, changed all that. Hansman wanted WashU students like me to see more than the city’s postcard highlights. So every week, he supplemented our readings with trips to different neighborhoods across St. Louis, many of them disadvantaged. As we walked, he introduced us to longtime residents and business owners, and strangers became friends.

The class was a fascinating survey of the city that connected its past with its present. That semester, Hansman encouraged us to consider ourselves part of the St. Louis community and to become invested in the city’s success. A scholarship does this, too. It is, at once, an investment and an invitation to explore, challenge yourself, and find your people.

My scholarship did this for me, and I am truly grateful. At WashU, I made lifelong friends who pushed and supported me through a rigorous architecture major and graduate degree program in business. Many of these friends were fellow scholarship recipients. Without them and my academic mentors, I would not be the same person.

Today, as a design strategist at a large architectural firm, my work involves thinking about space, experience, and community. I am up to the task because of my interdisciplinary studies at WashU and the range of places and people I encountered as a student.