Alumnus’s passion for architecture, planning intersect at Ivy Tech
Whether tinkering with his father’s furniture-making tools to carve wood or building shelters in the forest to stay cool and dry while hunting for mushrooms, Hau Khup has downplayed many of the lessons learned during his favorite childhood activities. He’s often regarded them as little more than innocent fun.
But now that he’s an adult studying architecture and urban planning halfway around the globe, he’s revisiting those early exercises in creativity and utility and seeing them as career influences.
“I now realize these interests played a part in leading me to my passion, my goal,” Khup says.
His path to college—beginning at Ivy Tech Community College Northeast and now on to Ball State University—has been a nontraditional experience when compared with most of his peers.
Khup’s home nation of Burma, in Southeast Asia, has been destabilized by a decades-old civil war and several military coups, which have resulted in economic hardships, widespread displacement of citizens, and human rights violations.
“Even as a child, I knew things were bad in Burma. A lot of people had no jobs or income,” Khup says.
In fact, the need to find work divided his own family. When Khup was 5, his father and older brother, Langh, fled Burma for Malaysia, where they both found low-paying jobs in restaurants. Khup and his mother followed their lead to Malaysia when he was 12, but upon their arrival, Khup’s father and brother had already resettled in America as refugees sponsored by the United Nations.
“We would get phone calls from my father sometimes. We would discuss what was going on, and we’d wonder how we were ever going to get to come to the United States,” Khup says.
Khup spent the next 2 ½ years working as a waiter and dishwasher in Malaysia’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur, while also caring for his ill mother.
While living in the Southeast Asian metropolis, Khup says he remained in awe of his surroundings; it was a dramatic contrast from the village of 400 residents where he grew up.
“I still wasn’t thinking about a future in architecture at that point, but I did have questions about how the buildings were built in that complex city, but I never found the answers,” Khup says.
His luck improved in 2010 when he and his mother earned the opportunity to immigrate to Fort Wayne where their family was reunited.
Following one year in middle school, Khup advanced to North Side High School and graduated in 2015.
The first in his family to pursue college, Khup chose Ivy Tech Northeast, where he elevated his academic performance, English proficiency, and social confidence.
“Early on at Ivy Tech, I started thinking more and more about buildings and architecture, but I realized none of those classes were offered,” Khup says.
Dawn Hammond made herself available to address his academic concerns.
Hammond, an academic advisor who specializes in working with international and ESOL, or English for Speakers of Other Languages, students, says she worked with Khup to identify the right mix of transfer classes that satisfied his needs and increased his chances of getting accepted into Ball State’s College of Architecture and Planning.
“Working with refugees, I see that immediate needs must be addressed first. Many of the refugees’ talents go unrecognized because work and family must come first. But at Ivy Tech, we are practical dreamers. We want to make sure their dreams are achieved,” says Hammond, the 2017 statewide recipient of the Ivy Tech Veteran Advisor Award.
“Dawn became my best friend at that point,” Khup recalls.
Now at Ball State, Khup has expanded his network of supporters who appreciate his conscientiousness and determination, particularly Associate Professor of Architecture George Elvin.
“Hau’s international experience could give him a richer understanding of architecture, which will serve him well in his career,” Elvin says. “And I have no doubt that his creativity and drawing skills will make him an in-demand architect.”
Since entering architecture school, Khup says he consciously spends a little more time being introspective about his life’s journey to date.
“It can be interesting to connect the dots back to your youth and see how experiences may have led you to your dreams,” he says.