Last summer, Chastain served as director of Design and Construction Discovery Camp, which introduced high school students to all six areas of study in CADC.
Katherine Buck Chastain might know more about Auburn’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction (CADC) than anyone else.
“She has an encyclopedic knowledge of CADC!” said Ben Bush, an associate professor in industrial design. “She knows each professor, where they got their degree, where they worked previously, what grant projects they have done and what they are currently teaching. This impressive database allows her to communicate to students that design is very much an attractive career option.”
As CADC’s recruitment and scholarship manager, Chastain has guided thousands of students through the admissions process, welcoming families, arranging tours and answering questions from parents. Having worked at Auburn’s main Office of Admissions for four years before joining the college in 2016, Chastain’s experience is invaluable in guiding prospective students through the application process.
“Our students and parents have given incredible feedback regarding their interactions with Katherine,” said Ben Farrow, CADC’s associate dean for academic affairs and international programs. “She ‘believes in Auburn and loves it’ and lives that every day.”
While Chastain has learned about CADC through conversations with students, faculty and alumni, she cites her time as a student recruiter and student worker in the University Admissions Office as the main source of the many random Auburn facts she spouts.
“There was an Auburn 1-800 number that rang to our phone, and boy, oh boy, the random questions we would get,” she said. “Every time I picked up that phone, I got to learn something new by finding the answer to the questions we would get asked. The student recruiters also had an excellent knowledge packet that gave me a great foundation.”
Partnering with Bush, Chastain has worked to expand the college’s outreach efforts, connecting with high schoolers across the state who may not have access to a design studio education. Chastain and Bush worked with high schools through their Shoe Design Outreach program, introducing design by guiding students in the creation of an original shoe design that includes decisions about color, material, finish and tread patterns.
“Our job as a land-grant institution is to prepare the next generation of Alabama’s workforce with quality education,” Chastain said. “We work with Title I schools and first-generation students to expose them to careers they otherwise might not have considered. Students graduating from high schools in Alabama who want to be architects, designers and builders know we can create a plan for them to achieve their goals if they are willing to put in the work.”
Having worked at Auburn’s main Office of Admissions for four years before joining the college in 2016, Chastain’s experience is invaluable in guiding prospective students through the application process.
Another of Chastain’s outreach projects is the creation of CADC’s Design and Construction Discovery Camp. Last summer, she served as director of this week-long camp that introduced underrepresented students to all six areas of study in CADC. She worked with the CADC Advancement team to find industry partners to support the budget and recruited faculty to teach the camp.
“The biggest thing I took away from being camp director was the importance of creating space for talented students to be challenged as designers, thinkers and makers,” Chastain said. “We selected 15 students for the camp, and they were some of the most amazing students I have ever worked with. Each student excelled in a different CADC field, and not one of them was hesitant to step out of their comfort zone and learn about an unfamiliar area.”
Whether it’s introducing visitors to campus or introducing high school students to the field of design, Chastain makes a major impact on prospective students. She also makes an impact on her co-workers in the college.
“Honestly, I could list about 50 things that make her so good at what she does,” Farrow said. “In short, she is extremely driven and passionate about her work at Auburn and the CADC. She eagerly takes on challenges and brings a fresh perspective and enthusiasm to work every day, and she inspires others, including myself, to work harder and collaborate more effectively.”