University Students Attend Annual RCI Convention and Trade Show

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June 6, 2018
By Walt Rossiter and Rick Gardner

In 2012, the RCI Foundation initiated its Student Sponsorship program for supporting student attendance at the Annual Convention and Trade Show. The first year, seven students were supported. In 2018, 24 students attended due to the Foundation’s growth and support of RCI members and industry.

Prerequisites for Participation — To qualify for attendance, applicants must be full-time undergraduate students (at least 12 credit hours per semester) enrolled in architecture; architectural, structural, or civil engineering; construction management; or other related areas of study. Up to 25 students are eligible to receive this funding, and students may be selected twice (for different years).

The sponsorship includes RCI convention registration, up to four nights lodging at the convention hotel, a stipend for meals, cost of travel (up to $400), and a one-year RCI student membership. In return for the stipend, recipients are required to:

  • Attend a minimum of ten hours of educational presentations and devote three hours to the trade show floor.
  • Interact informally with staff, committees, and the Board of Directors during the convention.
  • Participate in public affairs/advertising efforts by participating in an article for the RCI NewsFeed or RCI Interface, sharing convention experiences and the knowledge gained.
group photo
Twenty-four students attended the 2018 RCI International Convention and Trade Show (pictured here with RCI CEO Lionel van der Walt in the center).
Universities Represented — The 2018 student participants arrived from 12 campuses located in both the United States and Canada: Alfred State College in Alfred, NY; Algonquin College in Ottawa, ON; Appalachian State University in Boone, NC; California State University, Northridge in Northridge, CA; Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut (3 students), Iowa State University in Ames, IA; Mohawk College in Hamilton, ON (2 students); North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY; Ryerson University in Toronto, ON (3 students); University of Texas at Arlington in Arlington, TX (3 students); and Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA (6 students). The Foundation’s intentions are to expand the Student Sponsorship program to a much larger base of universities. We are always looking to involve more schools and to alert them to this opportunity.

Participant Experience — Since returning to their studies, students have provided summaries of their convention experiences. Students mentioned a number of benefits gained by their attendance, the most expected being learning and networking.  Others include: motivation for continuing their education such as attending graduate school, gaining experience in how to most profit from attending a conference, increased potential for future job offers, general personal development, and insights into the breadth of the building envelope industry.

Participant Impressions — Meeting with the students during the convention is always a rewarding and enjoyable experience. All are generally smiling and full of laughter, usually easy to talk to but at times seemingly intimidated, inquisitive, and confident but with some hints of apprehension as they explore the unknowns of the convention. Most important, all students are quite thankful. Often students describe how they could not have afforded to attend the convention on a student budget. Consistent with such admissions, as they gain experience at the convention, the participants readily mentioned that any student who has the opportunity to attend a future convention should “go for it!” The majority of those who are attending for their first time and will not have graduated after the convention mentioned they would like to attend again next year.

students at reception
Some of the sponsored students, with Emerging Professionals Committee Chair Julie McDonald.

Mentors — In 2017, the Student Sponsorship program was expanded to identify mentors who would support, counsel, and guide the students through the unknown and potentially overwhelming experience of attending convention. The mentors are RCI members who volunteer for the role. The mentor aspect of the Student Sponsorship program has been quite successful. Both students and mentors benefit. The students learn from practicing consultants; the mentors profit from their exposure to the students’ questions and life styles. To illustrate, one of this year’s mentors was Kenrick Hartman of WJE’s New York office, who spoke to his experience:

It’s been a pleasure to serve as a mentor through RCI’s student mentorship program.  The students I have met are bright, motivated individuals who are eager to learn more about the building envelope industry and what RCI has to offer. As a mentor, I’ve gained a better understanding of what students are equipped with upon graduation and am encouraged to see such strong interest and knowledge in the practice areas RCI represents.

Program Support — If you or your company is interested in supporting the Student Sponsorship program, please visit the RCI Foundation website at Indicate that you would like the donation to be used for the “RCI Convention Student Participation Fund.” Alternatively, contact Foundation Development Officer Rick Gardner at or 919-859-0742.


Attending the RCI International Conference in Houston, Texas, proved to be an unbelievable experience. …Being in the presence of 1600 industry professionals was an absolute privilege. One that most students in my field do not get to experience.

The most meaningful experience of the event was the networking we all got to do. Personally, I tried to talk to as many different individuals in as many different fields as I could, fields that I didn’t even know existed before attending the event. Not only did I gain knowledge from their experience, I also started relationships that I can build upon in the future.

Another great learning experience was the opportunity to participate in seminars taught by professionals. The seminars not only provided us with valuable information about the speakers’ respective fields, it also gave us information about what our role could be as engineers. Seeing the type of work they did gave me a perspective of all that I could do in this career whether it be research, design, consulting, etc.

Given the opportunity to talk to future applicants, I would tell them what you all told me, “The conference is what you make of it.” The RCI convention provides you with so much potential, it is your responsibility to unlock it and do something with it. I know I will continue to nurture the relationships I built in Texas and will continue to be a member of the RCI community.

– Andrew Pelletier, Central Connecticut State University

Attending the Houston convention surely exposed me to the building envelope side of construction. …For me, [the most] memorable experience was talking to the people at the socials in the evening. They were so helpful and shared their experience. Further, the educational programs were good. I did write my notes on them and will research more on the topics that I am interested in.

I learned various concepts pertaining to building envelope which I wasn’t [sic] aware of prior to this. Further, I learned how to network efficiently. I learned about various products on the trade show floor. In short, the 4 days were very helpful in my career and surely increased my knowledge in this field.

If you get in, you shouldn’t miss this opportunity because the whole RCI organization is amazing. The students can get [a] great amount of knowledge [from] the educational programs, network with people, know about the upcoming events, talk about your future career interests, and there will surely be people looking to hire you. So yes, JUST GO!

– Rahil Mehta, Virginia Tech

This was a highly productive event which allowed complete exposure into the industry, which I don’t believe I otherwise would have had within my architectural education. I was most impressed with how much value was able to fit into one weekend. Between the lectures and trade show, to events for awards and acknowledgements, it was a unique experience to be so fully engaged within this professional community with open arms.

As an architecture student it is easy to become submerged in the principles of theory and design, but this convention and introduction into the RCI was an answer to another side of the industry based upon the realities and reasoning behind why and how we build. I am very grateful to this organization for supporting my education and providing an eye-opening experience into the profession.

– Jennifer Hay, University of Texas at Arlington

As a two-time student attendee to the RCI International Trade Show and Convention, I would like to thank the RCI Foundation for allowing me to partake in such an amazing experience.

Looking back, I view the convention as a major highlight during my time in school because of how fun, friendly and informative everyone I met was. From industry leaders to professors, vendors and speakers, there was an abundance of opportunities to learn about the building envelope and network, with strong possibilities of landing a job one day with these companies.

Although I’ve used both my student opportunities to attend, I plan on staying in contact with RCI and possibly becoming a member once I start my career. Thank you for everything over these past two years. They are memories I will never forget.

– Scott Belcher, Virginia Tech

Thank you to all of those who make this event possible every year. As a student I am especially grateful that you offer scholarship opportunities so that I may come and gain insight as to what the industry is like. I learned more than I ever could have imagined and will be highly recommending this opportunity to my peers. Thank you again and keep up the great work!

-Jackson Laing, Appalachian State University

Students (and Ontario Chapter Past President Jennifer Hogan) enjoying the Friday night welcome reception.
It was an honor to be recognized and to have been given such a unique opportunity. Not only was I able to apply knowledge I’ve learned in college, but I met tons of possible future employers. It was the perfect chance to network and get my name out there. It was also a huge confidence booster as I was asked by two or three different employers if I was graduating this semester and looking for a job. They were upset when I told them I still had a year left and an internship secured for this summer as well.

I would like to thank all the RCI members for making me feel so welcome and encouraging me to become a part of the “family”. It was beyond inviting, and I most definitely will keep my options open when it comes to graduating and choosing a job next year.

If I were able to attend the conference again, I would in a heartbeat. Like I previously stated, this was a great opportunity for networking and I am going to encourage more students to attend next year. Just knowing how interested all the members were in us students being a part of the conference makes you feel so welcome and simply excited just to be a part of such a great industry.

– Sarah Gambino, Alfred State College

“Thank you so much for sponsoring my attendance of RCI 2018. As an aspiring architect, I feel it is important to learn as much as I can about the world of construction, and RCI gave me the chance to learn not only through books and documents, but by talking to people in the industry.

This kind of experiential learning is priceless, and I hope to share the knowledge I gained as widely as possible. I can’t thank you enough for the support and generosity of the RCI Foundation.

– Trey King, Virginia Tech

Attending the Houston convention will definitely affect my future studies because the presentations and trade show I attended were related to many different fields, including the field I am in. They gave me information on the areas which I am not taught in school. The most meaningful experience was meeting with people from all over the U.S. and Canada and how they shared their life and work experiences with me.

While attending the event I did not only gain information about different fields, but I learned how to socialize with people that I never met. Not only was I surprised to see how many people approached me rather than me approaching them; I was also surprised to see how willing they were to share experiences with me. For those of you who are going to be applying for this opportunity, I would highly recommend it. The amount of experience and networking will open up the doors of opportunities that you may never think of.

– Sanjiv Patel, Central Connecticut State University

As an upcoming building science graduate student, it is vital to be able to talk and learn from leading experts in the field. During the 2018 RCI conference held in Houston Texas, I was lucky enough to be a student participant and partake in many activities I would have otherwise not be able to do.

Over a few days I was exposed to a wide network of information including people, products/demonstrations, and educational events. Without the contributions made, many next-generation members of RCI would not have had the exposure needed for future growth in our industry. I hope to get the chance to meet many of you again at future RCI events.

– Navindra Budhwa, Ryerson University

I plan on becoming a licensed architect within the first few years after graduation, and after obtaining licensure, I plan on becoming a specialist within the field. The RCI Student Sponsorship has allowed me the opportunity to learn about potential areas of specialization within the field of architecture that I may not have learned about until years into my professional career.

Getting the chance to learn about current topics in the architectural profession from some of the top industry professionals was not only inspiring, but highly educational and informative about the direction that I plan to take in my career. Because of my experience at the 2018 RCI convention, I am seriously considering becoming a building envelope specialist in the future and I plan on maintaining involvement with the RCI Foundation throughout my career.

On a student budget, the opportunity that the RCI Foundation offers would not be possible. I am endlessly thankful for the opportunity I was given to learn and grow as a young professional.

– Stephenie Williams, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute