As an undergrad, Brian Kelly chose the University of Notre Dame’s architecture program in part because of its study-abroad requirement. And indeed, his year in Rome left a lasting imprint on him as an architect.
“I remember going to history classes and learning about the buildings, but it’s not the same as actually experiencing the Pantheon firsthand, or walking down a street in Rome, passing a café, smelling the smells and hearing the sounds,” says Kelly, associate dean for development and faculty affairs and director of the architecture program in UMD's School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.
For Kelly, going overseas helped him understand the relationship between the individual buildings that architects work on, and the aggregate of structures and culture that creates a city—a relationship central to UMD’s urban-focused architecture program.
Now Kelly is ensuring that a new generation of students have that kind of experience by establishing the Brian P. Kelly, AIA Travel Abroad Fund with a $500,000 bequest, plus annual gifts for a current-use fund. They will support the school’s graduate and undergraduate students seeking to travel abroad, with a preference for students who’ve never been out of the United States.
“For the past 30 years or so, I’ve been teaching in a program every other year that takes a group of students to Rome,” Kelly says. “I’ve observed in recent years that the participants in this program are less diverse than the entire school’s student body, which outpaces many other schools of architecture for diversity.”
He began thinking about how he could take action while on another trip with students to Oxford, England. A student who grew up in one of Washington, D.C.’s disadvantaged neighborhoods told him the radical shift in setting to the medieval university town with its millennia-old buildings helped drive home the significance of the profession.
“He told me, ‘My eyes are opened—this has really made me feel sure I’m going to be an architect,’” Kelly says.