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Meet the Grads: Braydon Strausser

Braydon Strausser

Braydon Strausser is hard working and dedicated.

Poised to graduate from West Virginia University with a career ready to take flight, there’s no doubt those qualities helped him get here.

Immediately following graduation, the landscape architecture major plans to relocated to Frederick, Maryland, and work for Old Towne Landscape Architecture.

Until the United States Air Force calls him for active service, that is.

Between his sophomore and junior years, Strausser enrolled in the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps Field Training program where he learned about military field tactics, leadership and military organization.

“This experience taught me much about leadership and how to communicate with people that I do not know,” he said. “It also taught me that you can work longer and harder than you thought possible if you have the right focus and right people by your side.”

It also helped him find a higher calling.

“In the wake of the past year and a half of competition, I have been selected for the position of pilot by the United States Air Force and will be relocating to southern Texas for training in 2021,” Strausser said. “It is my intention to serve in the USAF for a full 20-year career before retiring.”

While in the service he plans to pursue a master’s degree in architecture or civil engineering.

Continuing his education will allow him to keep his design skills sharp.

“Following my resignation from that service, I plan to return to the world of design and work as a custom estate designer specializing in full site design including both home and grounds,” he said.

Why did you choose your major or degree program?

The career path of landscape architecture was very appealing to me for many reasons. Some of the primary reasons were my love of outdoors and plants. Growing up I spent many hours during the summer helping my mom garden, prune trees and work outdoors making flowerbeds. My father also spent many hours teaching me the native trees to my home state of Maryland. The next reason was my love for design and building, ever since a young age I have loved to work on things with my hands and solve problems. Designing landscapes to me is like a huge puzzle, my job is to make all the pieces fit in a way that builds the best picture. The reason I decided upon WVU was because it is such a well ranked accredited program. When choosing schools, it was imperative that the LA program I participated in be both accredited and competitive.

What has been your most meaningful experience at WVU?

There are so many experiences that stand out as meaningful but probably my most significant experience occurred fall semester of 2018 when I took LARC 350 (Intro to Landscape Architectural Design 1). The goal of this studio was to help the small town of Marlinton, West Virginia, develop zoning codes for future growth. Marlinton had experienced a major flood several years before and the community was struggling to put itself back together. To provide the town with the information that was needed, myself and my class - assisted by Dr. Peter Butler - worked remotely to gather information about the geographic, hydrologic, geologic and demographic qualities of the region. Once we had sufficient data gathered to determine the areas in the region that were suitable for different forms of development, we were able to approach the mayor and other officials in Marlinton to ascertain their opinions about how the town should grow and develop. We were also able to work via community meetings and surveys to gather additional input directly from the residents, this gave the people of Marlinton a way to express their desired outcome. At the end of the semester Dr. Butler was able to present the town of Marlinton with a very comprehensive document from the class, detailing many ways in which they could get back on their feet. This process taught me both the true value of community engagement and public participation, along with many effective methods for gaining this input.

If you could trade places with one person for a day, who would it be and why?

To be honest I have never had a desire to change places with anyone. I am grateful and blessed to be where I am and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What is one thing you would have done differently during college?

One thing I have regretted in college is that I didn’t take more opportunities to visit more the great state of West Virginia. I have gotten to visit many of the most popular tourist destinations in the state but I have often wished that I had taken more time to travel around and see more of these wondrous places before the human development overtakes them and they cease to exist.

What one piece of advice would you share with future students?

There are many things I would love to say to future students: Some of the first things that come to mind are:
  • College isn’t a place to play. It is a job and if you treat it as such you can come out far ahead of your peers.
  • Choose the career you want and then pick a degree that will get you there.
  • Take every opportunity to make connections with professors and other students.  
  • Never be afraid to ask: For advice, guidance, help, clarification or opinions; and once you’ve heard them don’t be afraid to still do something different.
  • Don’t be scared to just sit down and start talking to someone you don’t know, chances are they would be happy for the company to.
  • The magic words “I am a college student working on a project” open many doors.
Your final semester of college obviously didn’t go as planned. How did you stay focused? What lessons did you learn?

While it was far from what I had planned for my final semester it has taught me much about remote work. Often in many professional settings it is very important that you be able to work together with someone while being hundreds of miles apart. Because my capstone project in LA was a group assignment, I have had many opportunities to practice this skill and it has taught me just how important it is to have effective communication especially writing.