MSU architecture majors make Oktoc Community Club more accessible

December 21st, 2017 Comments Off on MSU architecture majors make Oktoc Community Club more accessible

Efforts by nearly 20 Mississippi State architecture majors are making the Magnolia State’s oldest community club more accessible.

A new wooden ramp at the Oktoc Community Club recently was designed and constructed by the university’s Freedom by Design team. Now meeting federal accessibility standards, the entranceway on the historic building’s eastern side is situated near a primary parking area.

Freedom by Design is the community service arm of the American Institute of Architecture’s student chapter in the MSU School of Architecture.

Established in 1927, the community club was among many launched statewide by what now is the MSU Extension Service to share current information on subjects related to farm production and food preparation and delivery. Members of the south Oktibbeha organization pride themselves for having held monthly meetings without fail over the entire 90-year period.

“The building is your traditional white rural church style and has steps at each entrance,” explained Larry Box, chairman of the club’s house and grounds committee.

After several members commented on “a need for a ramp to facilitate entrance,” Box said he was encouraged by wife Florence to reach out to the MSU architecture school.

“This project fit really well with the Freedom by Design spirit,” said Emily Turner, a fourth-year student and FBD co-director. A Starkville resident, she attends MSU as a Presidential Scholar.

A trade-marked title, Freedom by Design was created to “provide real-world experience through working with clients, learning from local licensed architects and contractors and experiencing the practical impacts of architecture and design.” Its members focus on finding professional solutions to address physical and other major societal barriers. For more, visit

As they will following graduation and required licensure, the MSU architecture students began the project with a design charrette to brainstorm preliminary concepts. After completing research to ascertain their design complied with the Americans with Disability Act of 1990 and was within budget, they developed a virtual model to present to the client.

The project took two weeks to complete. The rigorous demands of daily class schedules led team members to complete much of the work at night, Turner said. She gave special credit for meeting the deadline to Pablo Vargas of Ridgeland, a second-year architecture student and the project’s construction manager.

She also praised support provided by the Boxes, both retired public school employees. “Dr. Box was a great partner to have for our second project; he stayed late to help us and his wife baked treats.” she said.

Turner said the project was much larger than the group’s first venture, the design and construction of compost bins for the Starkville Boys and Girls Club community garden.

She also noted how the Oktoc project involved a number of first-year majors that “didn’t have a lot of experience in building.” Nonetheless, she said the freshmen “took advantage of this opportunity to learn how to interact with a real-world client. We learned some really important skills that most students just don’t get in architecture school.”

Box said he and other club members are “very pleased” with the outcome. “It looks good and is very functional,” he added. “These kids worked hard and I was impressed with their work ethic.”

In addition to Turner and Vargas, the FBD team included (by hometown):

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Sophomore Jacob B. “Jake” Haasl.
CORDOVA, Tenn.—Freshman Aaron M. Jones.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ga.—Sophomore McKenzie R. “Kenzie” Johnson, project manager
FRANKLIN, Tenn.—Freshman Audrey Eisner.
HARVEST, Ala.—Sophomore Breanna H. “Bre” Richeson.
HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn.—Freshman Pace M. Dempsey.
LINDALE, Texas—Freshman De’Vion L. Dingle.
MADISON—Junior Alexander D. “Alex” Boyd, publicity co-chair; and sophomore Ashley E. Casteel, director.
MEMPHIS, Tenn.—Senior Felipe M. Olvera, publicity co-chair.
NEW ALBANY—Freshman Daisy Huerta.
SOUTHAVEN—Sophomore Mariah J. Green.
STEENS—Sophomore Madison C. Holbrook.
SUMRALL—Sophomore Hannah C. Strider.
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras—Sophomore Jose Solorzano.
WIGGINS—Junior Kaitlyn R. Breland.

For more about MSU’s Freedom by Design chapter, contact Turner at or find the group on Instagram at fbd_msstate.

Information on the School of Architecture is found at

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at

Read more in The Columbus Dispatch.

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