As a student at Taubman College, Mitchell Roessing, B.S. ’15, had the confidence to take chances in the studio. In large part, that’s because Michigan took a chance on him.
It’s also because Roessing wasn’t a traditional undergraduate student. He had worked in architecture firms in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in Boston for eight years. When classmates asked him how some of the concepts presented in class came so easily to him, he’d respond, “Because I used to do this every day.”
The self-proclaimed “studio dad” of his class, 30 years old when he graduated, Roessing says that one of the biggest pieces of advice he repeatedly gave the younger students was, “‘Just start with an idea and build on it.’ They’d be so anxious, it would make them be stuck. I’d encourage them to see studio not as a test but rather a three-hour block of freeform creativity.”
Roessing knows something about being stuck. It’s how he felt as an architecture student at the University of Virginia, when a summer internship illuminated differences between architecture education and architecture practice. “I began asking questions no one else was asking,” he says. He left UVA and joined a small practice in Charlottesville before moving to Boston to work for another firm while earning credit at Boston Architectural College. When the recession cost him his job in 2008, he returned to his former employer in Charlottesville.
Roessing’s future wife, an Ann Arbor native (and U-M alum), nudged him to return to school and to consider doing so at Michigan. His reapplication to UVA was denied, but Michigan admitted him. So in 2013, 11 years after he first entered a college classroom, Roessing became a student at Taubman College. “I have a lot of pride and gratitude in the fact that Michigan took a chance on someone who had been out of school and working for eight years,” Roessing says. “I was ecstatic to be part of the program, and it was a breath of fresh air to see Taubman College support nontraditional students.”
As a way of saying thank you, today Roessing supports Taubman College through recurring gifts to the annual fund. As a senior project manager at JLL in central Virginia, he says that because he is in a position to give back, doing so is a no-brainer.
“Michigan welcomed me into the family, and I really believe I would not be in the position that I am today without my Michigan degree.”
At JLL, Roessing manages complex healthcare construction projects from an owner’s representative standpoint, including a $55 million building project he’s currently overseeing at a hospital in Virginia. “I see buildings being built, just like an architect, but I don’t design every corner of those buildings,” he says. His training, however, makes him fluent in the language of architecture, giving him a more holistic understanding of the project as well as a unique rapport with the contractors and subcontractors: “I came to Taubman College knowing I was probably going to transition out of design. But I knew I was going to a design school, and I embraced it. The creative freedom at Taubman brought me great joy.”
He especially credits Dawn Gilpin, a lecturer in architecture, for “pushing me to think outside of the box” and Jaffer Kolb, the 2015 Muschenheim Fellow, for challenging his students to go beyond the studio and create full-scale installations for a public space in Detroit. That project, he says, “was a dream experience that opened my eyes to what my future could be.”
— Amy Spooner