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When design studio professor Dr. Julie Rogers ’88 ’91 ’96 walks into a Texas A&M University architecture classroom, she tries to bring the world with her. “If students are engaged in a project and firmly believe it has a benefit worldwide, they will commit wholeheartedly,” she said.  

Rogers’ philosophy has guided Aggies to complete two studio projects—one in 2004 and one in 2021—with undeniable impact on Cambodian citizens. By creating an educational museum detailing the country’s history with landmines and a teaching farm that will help its citizens’ futures, students have learned eye-opening lessons about global communities and the true meaning of service to others. 

The Landmine Museum in Siem Reap, Cambodia, was completed in 2007 and continues to serve the community today. (Photo provided by the College of Architecture.)

2004: A Museum for the Ages  

Design studios are an immersive type of class where, typically, for an entire semester, a professor mentors a small group of students through hypothetical design problems that stress process and solution. The valuable experience provides Aggies a foray into design, problem-solving and understanding real-world conditions often without the pressure of capital and clients. 

In 2004, however, Texas A&M design students received a unique opportunity: a project intended for construction. The Cambodian Landmine Museum Relief Fund, a nonprofit that worked to rid Cambodia of landmines planted in the 1970s and 1980s during the country’s civil war, contacted Rogers with an exciting proposal. “They wanted plans for a complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia, consisting of a landmine museum, dormitories for child survivors of landmines and a small school,” she explained. “My sophomores spent a semester developing plans that suited the organization’s needs, but unfortunately, funding for construction was scarce.” 

After hosting fun runs, holding bake sales and selling t-shirts, the students brought a model and presentation boards to the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado in hopes of securing a benefactor to fund their designs. There, they met Tom Shadyac, director of Hollywood blockbusters “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” “The Nutty Professor” and “Bruce Almighty,” and sold him on their vision. Shadyac wrote a check for the entire remaining goal, and the Landmine Museum was completed in 2007. It continues to serve the community today. 

2021: Firsthand Farming  

Fast forward to 2021. As COVID-19 shuttered Cambodia’s businesses and borders, food shortages devastated the country. While a Cambodian nonprofit, The Together Farm, delivered more than 300 tons of rice to locals, the shortages highlighted a need for grassroots agriculture projects that could teach citizens how to farm, providing a more sustainable, long-term solution. 

Brooke Blazek ’25 and Olivia Gouveia ’25 created the selected design for the teaching farm. (Rendering provided by Olivia Gouveia ’25.)

Once again, Rogers and her students heeded the call. The Landmine Relief Fund, an American nonprofit that partners with The Together Farm, asked that Aggies design a concept for a teaching farm outside of Siem Reap. The benefits are twofold: locally grown produce won’t disappear if a border closes, and the profits circulate locally.  

Brooke Blazek ’25 and Olivia Gouveia ’25, freshmen in the Department of Architecture, created a concept that includes a small visitor center, a distribution building, temporary housing for small groups of agricultural students and a home for the farm’s manager. Their design was chosen based on criteria including consideration of the users and the climate and an understanding of Southeast Asian vernacular architecture. The design complimented netted gardens, a hydroponic greenhouse and a mushroom house already on site. 

“I loved every bit of this project,” Blazek said. “It was challenging, but it made me excited for what the future holds.” Echoing her sentiments, Gouveia added, “My favorite part was how real it was. I enjoyed interacting with clients and meeting their needs.” 

Video provided by the College of Architecture

When Rogers accepted the project proposal, she contacted several of her long-graduated students from the 2004 museum project in hopes they would return to the classroom as advisors. Blazek and Gouveia’s student-turned-mentor was Scott Somerville ’06, a project manager for Beck Architecture in Dallas. “Just like our museum project, this project asked students to use their abilities without expecting anything in return,” Somerville said. “It was a privilege to help Dr. Rogers and the students accomplish something meaningful.” 

We don’t want to make money; we want to teach people how to do it for themselves. The buildings that Aggies designed are helping us do just that.
- Bill Morse, President and CEO of the Landmine Relief Fund

2050: A Brighter Cambodia  

Upon completion, the teaching farm will operate as a laboratory where Cambodian university students and local villagers can learn farming techniques. Saiy Mout, a graduate of the Royal University of Agriculture, will manage the farm and develop agricultural solutions to be tested there.  

Acknowledging that many past humanitarian efforts in Cambodia have failed when their foreign staffers went home, leaving operations to crumble without skilled oversight, the Landmine Relief Fund and The Together Farm are investing in local Cambodians like Mout to ensure long-term success. 

Both the 2004 and 2021 collaborations with Aggies created meaningful real-world experiences for students and enabled Cambodians to gain more agency for their country’s future. “We don’t want to make money; we want to teach people how to do it for themselves,” said Bill Morse, president and CEO of the Landmine Relief Fund. “The buildings that Aggies designed are helping us do just that.” 

Support the teaching farm


Special thanks is owed to the following individuals for their time, assistance and mentorship with this project.

Individuals in Cambodia

  • Bill Morse - Founder, Landmine Relief Fund, Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Konstantinos Gouzias - Student Intern at the Landmine Relief Fund

Studio Assistance - Local Individuals

  • Kathryn Walton - AIA., Arkitex Studio, Inc., Bryan, Texas
  • Charles Keese - Architect, Keese and Associates, Brenham, Texas
  • Sandra Hernandez - Ph.D. Student, Texas A&M Department of Architecture
  • Osi Karrar - Ph.D. Student, Texas A&M Department of Architecture 
  • Rohit Kumar - Ph.D. Student, Texas A&M Department of Architecture

Studio Assistance - Former Students

  • Kate Bedford '06 - AIA., Senior Architect, Leroy Street Studio Architects, New York, New York
  • Andrew Burleson '06 - Co-Founder and CTO at CoSell Austin, Texas
  • Chris Caillier '06 - AIA., Associate Principle/Project Manager, Page Southerland Page, Inc., Houston, Texas
  • Greg Caldwell '07 - AAP, ICOI. Caldwell & Dimmitt Periodontal and Implant Solutions, El Paso, Texas
  • Ashley Dias '06 '08 - AIA/Associate Principal, Perkins + Will, Dallas, Texas
  • Kristin (Curtis) Giesselmann '06 '08 - RID, NCIDQ. Owner | Graphics + Interior Designer Fuzzy Hippo Shop, Dallas, Texas. 
  • Luke Giesselmann '06 '08 - Prototype Designer, Pizza Hut Dallas, Texas
  • Kyle Lobpries '06 - Former United States Marine Corps, Naval Aviator and Attack Helicopter Pilot, Master of Architecture student (Fall 2021), University of Houston, Houston, Texas 
  • Alexis (Mixon) McKinney '06 '08 - AIA., Senior Associate, Architexas – Architecture, Planning, Historic Preservation, Inc., Dallas, Texas
  • Andrea Moon '06 - Freelance Art Director and Designer, Owner, Beaker Design Lab, Seattle, Washington
  • Dave Morris '05 '07 - Customer Engineer, Google, Houston, Texas
  • Jim Oppelt '06 - AIA., LPA Design Studios, San Antonio, Texas 
  • Scott Sommerville '06 - Associate Project Manager, Beck Architecture, LLC, Dallas, Texas
  • Anne (Green) Stimmel '06 '08 - AIA., Senior Associate, Architexas – Architecture, Planning, Historic Preservation, Inc., Dallas, Texas
  • Bess (Collier) Swantner '06 - Registered Architect and Artist, President, Swantner Architecture Studio, San Antonio, Texas

Do you know an Aggie who is selflessly serving? Let us know about them! Contact our editor at the bottom of this page, and they could be featured in a future issue.

  • Dunae Reader '15

  • Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications/Spirit Editor/Maroon Co-Editor
  • Call: 979.321.6343

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