Celebrating Our Graduates; Clemson University Honors College; College of Architecture, Art and Construction

Jumping In: Class of 2024 architecture major’s college career spans continents


When Katherine Harland was considering where to attend college to study architecture, a small-town campus in South Carolina wasn’t at the top of her list.

“What I had in my head was, ‘If I’m going to be an architect, I need to be in an urban environment,’” she recalled.

Four years and multiple intercontinental trips later, her perspective has changed.

“The ideas that you have about college — I don’t think you really know what you need, and what I needed was to come to Clemson,” she says.

Grandfatherly advice

At first, Harland wasn’t seriously considering Clemson until her grandfather, himself a healthcare architect, told her to take a look.

“He had told me how he had hired a student from Clemson years and years ago and how he was just so impressed with the student body,” she remembered.

While her grandfather gave her the first push to apply, her tour of campus and the Honors College moved her closer. Her acceptance to the National Scholars Program sealed the decision to become a Tiger and soon opened the door for her first of several trips abroad.

World traveler

Through the National Scholars Program, she traveled first to South Africa in conjunction with a South African history course, and then to Spain.

“We studied the intersection of the three religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity,” she explained. “It was extremely engaging to walk through the different styles of architecture.”

However, her deepest immersion in a foreign culture came through a semester at the Charles E. Daniel Center for Building Research and Urban Studies in Genoa, Italy, best known to friends of the School of Architecture as “the Villa.”

“That learning environment was incredibly engaging and enriching to me,” she said. “But then the opportunity to catch trains and planes and buses to all over Europe and engage myself in a variety of different cities and contexts was just wonderful.”

In the Spring of 2023, Harland was in the cohort of students at the Villa for its 50th anniversary, which drew generations of alumni back to Italy to celebrate the place and people who had transformed their lives. She said the moment forced her to reflect on how special Clemson’s architecture program is and to appreciate her experiences, knowing how profoundly alumni had been shaped by taking the same path. It also gave her greater appreciation with the students who traveled the path with her.

“I was able to live and work in an environment with very close proximity to other students, who honestly when I think about it, I’ll be calling them up 20, 30, 40 years down the road as I progress in my career,” she said.

A group of 18 well-dressed young people smile on a lush lawn with hanging lights and orange trees. Katherine Harland is on the second row.
Harland (back row, fourth from right) poses with her classmates in the garden of the Villa at the 50th-anniversary celebration of the Charles E. Daniel Center for Building Research and Urban Studies in Genoa, Italy.

Hands-on leadership

As much time as Harland spent studying abroad, she still managed to remain involved with campus life, especially with one of the most prominent displays of Clemson spirit: the Habitat for Humanity build on Bowman Field during Homecoming. She jumped in to help during her first year.

“It was during the pandemic, and I was really eager to get my hands dirty with something on campus because everything had been online,” she recalled.

By her junior year, she served as president of the Clemson chapter of Habitat for Humanity, a role which she repeated as a senior.

“I just found a love of using my hands to serve in that way,” she said. “It’s such a beautiful partnership between the community of Clemson, the campus of Clemson and even businesses and alumni.”

Katherine Harland smiles next to a Clemson Tiger mascot.
Harland shares a moment with the Tiger at the 2023 Clemson Homecoming Habitat for Humanity Build on Bowman Field.

Her campus involvement didn’t end with Habitat for Humanity. She also served as an editor of The Pendulum International Affairs Magazine, publicity chair for Equity in Architecture, member of the Clemson chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students and violinist in the Clemson University Symphony Orchestra.

Stitching it all together

On April 18, Harland was awarded the Phi Kappa Phi Certificate of Merit from the College of Architecture, Art and Construction. The award is presented to a senior with a strong academic record who has made noteworthy contributions to the Clemson University community. In her award application, Harland noted her penchant for “stitching together” the disparate parts of her experience.

“I thrive through drawing connections between disjointed things,” she wrote. “This love of intersectionality is probably why I have chosen to knit or sew many an architectural model.”

Her ability to bring ideas and people together made her stand out to her professors as well.

“Not only has she held leadership positions, but she is a leader in our architecture studios, which are the backbone of our curriculum,” said Associate Professor Sallie Hambright-Belue, director of the undergraduate architecture program. “She leads by example and is always willing to contribute to the studio culture and class. If anything needs to be done by the studio, Katherine is the first to jump in.”

“I do not think you will find a higher-caliber student than Katherine,” Hambright-Balue added. Harland earned admission at multiple top-ranked graduate schools and plans to attend Rice University in the Fall to pursue her master of architecture degree.

Katherine Harland stands between two people and smiles with an award in front of a purple banner.
Harland (center) smiles with Associate Dean of Undergraduate and Graduate Studies Shima Clarke (left) and Interim Dean George J. Petersen (right) after earning the Phi Kappa Phi Certificate of Merit from the College of Architecture, Art and Construction.

Making memories

Despite spanning the globe with her studies, leading a service project on Bowman Field and earning one of her College’s highest honors, Harland’s best Clemson memory includes none of those things. During her sophomore year, Harland and some of her classmates discovered that Hambright-Balue had a farm, and they persuaded their professor to invite them over.

The time communing with her professor in a new context, relaxing with friends and meeting the farm animals opened her eyes to what University life could be like outside of the traditional classroom.

“It was such a fun memory of being almost friends with your professor in a positive and encouraging way. She was able to let us into her life a little bit,” Harland reflected.

After experiencing all that Clemson can offer, the relationships made the difference.

“When I look back at the past four years, it’s nothing but gratitude and joy at the professors and the friends that I’ve made, and the things that I’ve learned,” she said.

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