Meet Chase Kramer '08

Architectural Graduate, TSP
Sioux Falls
— art major


Q. How did you choose Augustana?
Honestly, it’s almost sounds like a story straight from a movie (Orange County starring Jack Black and Colin Hanks comes to mind). Augustana actually wasn’t my first choice. Being born and raised in Sioux Falls, I had always imagined that I’d end up going somewhere out of state. Augie seemed like an easy and safe choice, but not my first choice. 

After visiting the architecture program at Washington University in St. Louis, I knew that it was going to be my first choice, and if accepted I would go there, even without any Scholarships. I pegged Augustana as my “back-up.”   When I wasn’t accepted at Washington University in St. Louis and I wasn’t receiving as many scholarships as I thought I would be receiving from other institutions, I knew something was off. There was an error in my transcripts (basically my ACT score was being incorrectly reported by my high school) that greatly affected my scholarship and admissions opportunities at colleges.   We discovered the error in my transcript too late to make a difference for my initial acceptance. 

But, Augustana, and specifically Angie Larson in admissions worked so hard to find me scholarship money and make the error in my transcript right from Augustana’s end.  When things righted themselves out several months into my first semester at Augie, I received an acceptance letter from Washington University. 

Two months, however, was all it took for me to fall in love with the programs and professors I had at Augie, as well as the idea of a Liberal Arts Education.  I rejected the acceptance letter, and my time at Augie over the next 4 years was very influential on me then and into the future as I pursued graduate studies.  In the end, this isn’t a story about how Augie wasn’t the best option, it’s a story about how I didn’t know that Augie was my best option, until Augie showed me it was!

Life at Augie

Q. Favorite class and why?
Do I have to pick just one?  Yikes.  I’m going to go with the modern/contemporary Art History course I had with Dr. Lindsay Twa my Junior year.  As I remember, it was the first time that a higher level art history course had been offered at Augustana, and I found my previous general Art History courses (the ones that replace most students’ Gen. Ed. Requirements for History) lacking in the depth I wanted to get into.  It made me challenge what “art” really was, and made visiting museums a whole new experience to me (where I would immediately run to their modern art collection).

Q. Favorite professor and why?
I hope I don’t hurt any feelings here, because I had a lot or professor’s I really enjoyed and respected.  But I think Steve Thomas (Professor Emeritus) had to be my favorite professor.  He was my advisor, but I only had him for a handful of sculpture and design classes.  Yet, because of the one on one nature of art instruction – he really challenged me.

I remember at midterm one semester when I was pulled thin between so many actives – choir, piano, theatre, and just life in general.  He had given me a C for a mid-term grade.  I was shocked.  I hadn’t gotten a C since Freshmen year when made the mistake of taking Calculus II because I had liked math so much in high school.  When I approached him about it, he challenged a fundamental aspect of how I work.  I had always been told to “work smarter, not harder” and that’s what I did in all I pursued before college.  However, it was Steve who made me realize that sometimes, working harder is smarter - especially when it comes to art.  There is an element of time that can reveal so much, but you have to be willing to work hard and put in that time – and that’s what I was missing.  Someone who can teach you a lesson like that, about something so fundamental, you can’t help but respect them.

Short Form:  He really challenged that way I work and problem solve, for the better.

Q. Best Augie memory?
. Singing the Conversion of Saul by Z. Randall Stroope during a power outage at an Augustana Choir concert in Tanzania, summer of 2006.  It was a shared experience that anyone who was a part of will understand as they read this, but it can’t be put into words.

After Augie

Q. Tell us about your journey after graduating from Augustana – first job, grad school, travel, etc.?
After graduation from Augustana, I attended Iowa State University to pursue a Master’s degree in Architecture (M.Arch).  The skills and knowledge I had gained at a liberal arts college like Augie helped me to really engage and understand all that is required to be a successful and responsible creator of environments.  While there, I spend a month in Berlin working on urban planning and design along the river Spree that I think was very influential on my attitudes about the role of an architect in the planning of the larger city.

After graduating from ISU, I married Rachael Kramer (Hoogendoorn) whom I had met and fallen in love with my senior year at Augustana.  We both found jobs in Sioux Falls that same summer, she at St. Mary Elementary as the music teacher, and me as an Intern Architect at VanDeWalle Associates.  There I made the transition to idealistic architecture student to realistic and successful architectural designer. In 2013, however, I received an opportunity to work for a regionally prestigious firm doing much larger and intensive work based in Sioux Falls – TSP.

Q. Tell us about your career – what’s an average day like?
What is great about being an architect is that there is no such thing as an average day.  You aren’t always doing the same thing – which means it is never dull.  I may spend my mornings in a project coordination meeting or two, do some research or coordination on another project, meet with a product representative over lunch (only if they’re buying), and in the afternoon work on construction documents for another project.

Q. Greatest challenges and best rewards of your current role?
My greatest challenge is keeping designs flexible.  In today’s building industry, this is a lot easier today, and the delivery time required for a set of construction drawings is greatly diminished from the days of hand drawing – but there still exists this need to have decisions made as soon and as early as possible by the client or owner so that the documents can be finished on time.  If things are still changing a week before a deadline, it’s difficult to have a comprehensive finished set of documents.  However, sometimes these changes do need to occur – it gets back to the element of time required in good art and design.  Sometimes you have to put the work to find the right answer.  It’s all about maintaining that back and forth.

The best reward of my job is seeing something you imagined in your mind and drew on paper (or the computer) come to life and be built.  Having only been in the business three years, and given the amount of time construction takes, I haven’t too many opportunities to see this, but when I get to follow a project through from programming or schematic design all the way to substantial completion, that is a great feeling.

Q. Greatest professional accomplishment thus far?
To become an official “licensed” architect, you have to complete 5000+ hrs of an internship program and complete 7 additional examinations.  I completed my last exam in June, and I am 94% of the way through the internship process.

Q. What’s next for you professionally?
I see myself staying at TSP.  We do cutting edge work for great clients like Augustana (e.g. most recently the Froiland Science Center), and that is where I see myself, serving clients as someone who can help them realize their dreams.  Soon I will be fully licensed, and that will mean more responsibility in overall project management.

Q. If you could offer a prospective or existing Augie student some advice, what would you say?
Make the best of it that you can.  Wring every ounce of knowledge and experience you can gain out of your Augie experience. Be involved! That is what a liberal arts education is all about.

At Home

Q. Tell us about your family.
Rachael and I live in central Sioux Falls near the McKennan Park area.  We keep busy with our work and our other passions, including singing with the South Dakota Symphony Chorus and at St. Joseph’s Cathedral or our home church, St. Michael.  We have no pets or children yet, but I have been asking Rachael for a dog for some time now, and children are most assuredly in our future.

Q. What’s given you the greatest personal satisfaction since graduating from Augie? And why?
. I think I pull from that liberal arts experience by making sure I have the opportunity to still do the things I love – mainly music and theatre.  This last summer I was able to star in Sioux Empire Community Theatre’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” as Seymour Krelborn, and that fact that as a family we were able to make this work (and stay sane… well… at least I did, I don’t know about Rachael… just kidding!), is a testament to the good balance we have in life.  We thank God every day for the opportunities he’s afforded us, and the comfortable and joyous life he’s provided for us.

Q. A foundation for life at Augustana begins with our five core values – Christian Faith, Liberal Arts, Excellence, Community and Service. How did your time at Augustana help to ensure those values remain central in your life? 
As many musicians will tell you, the times they are feeling most in communion with God and their faith is when they are playing or singing.  Staying active in musical pursuits through piano, choir, and the Augie Choirboys allowed that notion to continue to grow in my own experience while I was at Augie. I helped me to further that experience in the Christian Faith. Of course this wouldn’t have been possible if not for the core value of Liberal Arts, allowing individuals to gain all the various skills needed to be an active member in the community.  Augie’s parameters for excellence have led me to continue to strive for excellence in all I do.  These days, I focus more on how I can be more involved and serve in the community through various opportunities, something that was taught to me at Augustana, but was difficult to put into practice while pursuing a graduate education.  Again, I am grateful to have a life that allows me to now pursue the aspect of service.  And of course, I owe a lot of how my life has turned out to my time at Augie.