Student Biographies

Here each individual team member of the 2013 Argentina Learning Cluster will give a short summary about themselves and what they wish to gain from this rare and challenging experience.
    Alexandra Cline, Class of 2015
Although I was born in Santa Monica, California, I spent much of my youth on the East coast and also spent time traveling around the country with my family. Having seen many different cities and suburbs in the states, I found myself fascinated with architecture and its relation to culture. I often question the origin of certain styles or trends in architecture around the world– from Gaudi to repetitive Orange County, Ca planned communities, all architecture has a history. With this learning cluster I hope to apply my passion for the art of cultural aesthetics to our task at hand (building a sustainable home), while simultaneously gaining knowledge about practicality/ sustainability vs. beauty and aesthetics.

Zoe Witt, Class of 2016:

    Being a freshman this year at Soka, I am very lucky to be able to be a part of this unique and exciting learning cluster. I was immediately attracted to this learning cluster because of the opportunity to be able to be outdoors doing hands-on work. Previously, I had never considered the possibility of people today being able to live on their own, relying on the land, and all the environmental and financial benefits that will surely come about over time. I am excited to play around in the mud, working and coordinating with others, and seeing what we produce in the end.

    Midori Komatsu, Class of 2015:

    Believe it or not, I was actually born and raised on Dominican Republic, but my parents are Japanese. I am currently a sophomore at Soka and so far so good. Learning Clusters have been one of my favorite unique characteristics of my university. Students get to decide on a topic and usually involves traveling outside the country. Last year I was able to go to Panama and share a beautiful experience with my other classmates, so when I found out that I was going to have the opportunity to go to Argentina I was simply grateful and joyful for this chance. This cluster meant another new exciting experience. Not only the country of Argentina interested me, but also the topic of sustainable housing and such. Finding ways to be environmentally friendly has been a persistent issue for several years, and if we can find creative ways to aid our planet it is worth a shot.

    Christian Mera, Class of 2015:

    Although I’ve spent the majority of my life in Miami, Florida, I was born in Medellin, Colombia to Colombian parents, from distinct Colombian cities. I’m currently a Sophomore at Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo, California and feel extremely fortunate to attend such an incredible institution. My passions are futbol (Soccer), a future in the business field, and my family of course. This course interested me because of the different aspects involved such as the economics and environmental details to it. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to many unique parts of the world and can honestly say that Argentina is of the best so far. Having moved from Colombia to the U.S at an early age, I’ve had a much deeper appreciation of the Latin American culture which I can fairly relate to. I hope this project turns out as we initially hoped and would very much like to retell my experiences here in Buenos Aires.

    Hector Castenada, Class of 2015:

    I was born in the states but raised in Mexico. I am a Sophmore at Soka and this is my second Learning Cluster so far. Both of my Clusters have dealt with environmental issues so it would seem I am an environmentalist. This is partially true. I have always been a bit skeptical as to the practicality of the more extreme techniques people use to reduce their impact on the environment and have always been convinced that it is just not worth the effort. I am here in order to be convinced otherwise. While up until this point I am not a full believer (I enjoy my long showers and don’t like the prius) I have definitely come to appreciate the benefits that an eco-friendly lifestyle grants, particularly the type of construction we are studying here. I can definitely see how these techniques could be utilized in a way that would be appealing to the mainstream community, which I believe would be the best course of action for the ecological building movement.

    Andrew De Melo, Class of 2015:

    My name is Andrew Daisaku de Melo, born in long island and raised in Florida. I was born into a family of artists, my mother is an abstract painter from Korea and my father is a Portuguese industrial designer who owned a successful prototyping firm in New York. As a child I spent hours taking apart and repairing anything I could find, and I became in love with creating my own inventions and designing more efficient products. I built upon my skills of design and prototyping by attending an arts high school for two years and finished high school focusing on physics and architecture at a boarding-prep school named Taft. Currently I attend Soka University of America to get a liberal arts degree with a concentration in Humanities.
    I am obsessed with architecture, sustainable design and entrepreneurship. Over the past 5 years I have been studying architectural design, focusing on Japanese woodwork, Zen aesthetics, modular design through Metabolist architecture and ways to achieve these through the usage of sustainable building techniques. Because architecture requires much more resources and certifications to experiment with, I love to use my skills in 3d design and plastic modeling to create sustainable designs that are easily marketable and manufacture. My most recent project is a micro-aquaponics system for 10 gallon fish tanks. I am incredibly excited to work on this Learning Cluster, as it is a perfect combination of all my greatest interests. I hope to work as hard as possible to leave a lasting structure here in Buenos Aires, and to explore the architectural freedom that results from such radical building techniques!

    Katy Fetters, Class of 2015:

      Hello! I am from Huntington Beach, California and grew up in a fairly suburban community. Having this opportunity to work on this projects really ignites my interest in the idea of “suburbia” in the US versus privately owned property in Argentina. I originally joined this learning cluster because I really wanted to travel to a new culture while accomplishing something that would change my life. Tomas helped my vision come to life as we progressed into this grant writing and learning cluster process. I am in the Spanish program at Soka so I knew that traveling to Buenos Aires would help improve my communication skills on the local level.
      My ultimate goal during our learning cluster is to truly understand the importance of sustainability and the effects on not only the environment, but on the quality and practicality of our lifestyle in an “earthship” type home. Because sustainability and urban development is something that is very controversial in the developed world, I would also like to further my understanding of government intervention in the building process on privately owned property and why the laws are so different from places like Argentina when it comes to building out of sustainable materials. I have no experience building any type of structure and I am excited to have this opportunity!

      Claudia Ahumada, Class of 2015:

      Hello! My name is Claudia Ahumada and I am currently a Sophomore at Soka. I am Mexican American and my parents are both from Mexico, my father from Guadalajara y mi mama de Puebla. I grew up speaking Spanish and learning English while attending school and living in an English speaking country. Having the ability to live in Argentina and utilize my Spanish has been a wonderful experience, especially because we are in the process of theorizing, learning, and thus practicing the methods and idea of sustainable housing. I am absolutely in love with finding ways to better make use of our existence in aiding mother nature, as well as helping those who cannot afford to live in the modern world that we do, which also applies to those who live in underdeveloped countries, this Learning Cluster has allowed me to explore just that.

      Howee Wu, Class of 2016:

        Hello! I’m Howee! I am so grateful and excited having the opportunity to be in Argentina. I am a proud Taiwanese, born in the southern part of Taiwan. In 2000, my family and I moved to the United States. I cannot believe that 12 years passed already!!
        Anyways, I love to learn and explore. I enjoy singing, dancing, laughing, and most importantly, smiling. I am very positive and easy going. But what I want to get out of this L.C. is to explore different ways to build sustainability. Also, I am very interested in Latin American culture and learning about different ways of life. Buenos Aires is such an amazing place and I want to sincerely thank Tomas, my L.C. classmates / friends and Soka for funding my education to pursue learning across many national boundaries. Back to my spiel about nature. We need to start living one with nature. We need to give back to what mother nature gave us. I LOVE EARTH! So, Thanks for reading! :))

      Jessica Delgadillo, Class of 2015:

        The idea of exploring the concept of sustainable housing immediately caught my attention. Being from a typical suburban neighborhood in Orange County I have always noticed the blatant lack of regard for the environment in places such as this. Not only am I interested in exploring the possibility of creating a more eco-friendly environment in such a place as orange county, but also the possibility of sustainable housing for those who simply lack homes. This creates the possibility of killing two birds with one stone, in a sense, and working toward a solution in two areas that are severely in need of progress. As a liberal arts student at Soka CarUniversity, a concern for human rights as well as environmental rights are at the center of my education.I hope to gain a further and more well rounded knowledge of a topic, sustainable housing, that is rarely talked about and known in the United States and incorporate these concepts into my studies.

        Tamara Siemering, Class of 2016:

        My name is Tamara Siemering.  I am a freshman at Soka University.  I chose this learning cluster because I felt that it connected directly with the education I received from Waldorf schools.  The Waldorf curriculum introduced me to crafts such as handwork, woodwork and gardening.  I also learned how to build using cob, a material very similar to adobe while I was in high school.  My junior year, I helped build an oven and a bench made out of cob.  Another reason why I joined this learning cluster was for my love of nature.  I think it is important that everyone connects with and respects the nature that surrounds them.  Building one’s own home out of materials such as adobe is a more sustainable housing option, and makes for a rewarding experience.

        Caroline Sell, Class of 2015:

        My name is Caroline. I was named so due to my fathers passion for music. I was born in Boulder Colorado during a snow storm. I grew up in a very affluent community where the transition from a spiritually grounded community to spiritual materialistic individuals has changed the culture and unity of the Boulder Community. Spirituality in my life has brought both its pros and its cons. For the most part the cons have no influence except that it brings a hyper awareness to my understanding of the protestest and movements of the people; especially in regards to the environment and natural conservation. The concern for the planet, although completely respectable, in my opinion is the wrong way to look a the environmental movement. As I have come to understand it, saving the plantet is not the issue, the planet with survive; it is the salvation of humanity that is at stake.

        With this learning cluster, I saw an opportunity to learn how to perserve both planet earth and its inhabitants. I hope to learn how to create a lifestyle that is both sustainable in construction as well as sustainable for humanity. Because I have been influenced and involved in these social movements through a spiritual base, I view social change as an opportunity to revive spiritual connection and understanding between the offerings of the earth and the willingness of human kind. I am looking forward to playing with mud and building a shelter.

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