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BAC Student Jori Bercier Finds Meaning in Designing for Human Health

Jori Bercier

Jori Bercier, a Master of Design Studies student in Design for Human Health (MDS-DHH) from Lafayette, LA, is mission driven. In 2013 while an Interior Design student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Jori went on a mission trip to Brazil with 20 others. The group worked at a foster home, performing tasks like mowing the lawn with a machete. The foster children worked alongside them, taking advantage of the opportunity to build their environment and community together while chatting with their American visitors. Jori was inspired by the mission and the foster children, and after returning home, she switched her major to architecture because she knew that she wanted to combine architecture with psychology and sociology to better inform her experiences on future missions. After realizing this, Jori started researching and found The Boston Architectural College (BAC).

Jori received her Bachelor of Architecture in 2017 from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and started at the BAC in January 2018. For Jori, an online program was key because she could stay in Lafayette, continue working, and accomplish so much more while in school. Because intentionality is a big part of Jori's work, she really wanted to explore the deeper meaning of things in graduate school, like how architecture and design can have a greater impact on people.

Jori works full-time for Magnificat Travel, a company that organizes mission and pilgrimage trips around the world, leading tours and traveling about three times a year for two weeks at a time. A few months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017, Jori traveled to Puerto Rico with about 80 children to do some small rebuilding. While working at San Agustine del Coqui, Jori discovered that they were way ahead of many places in terms of designing for trauma.

"I mentioned that I was in graduate school studying design for human health, and they offered me the opportunity to be project manager of a five-acre healing garden," says Jori. "The site is incredible. It is in the mountains of Puerto Rico, and it is a place that offers both inclusivity and accessibility. The garden will have seven stations throughout the site to help someone process trauma, either on their own or with a friend, therapist, or counselor."

Jori started working on the design for the healing garden in March 2018 and will break ground in March 2019. "The garden will be done in phases over the 15 months. Right now we are in the grant phase. The design development phase is complete and the teams have been assembled. I will go back in February and March of 2019 and will work with Magnificat Travel to bring a group with me to work on this project."

In addition to her work at Magnificat Travel, Jori was selected to work with Project Manager Janet Roche, MDS-DHH '17; Hualian Gao, a Master of Interior Architecture student; and Lighting Consultants Catherine Leskowat and Alicia Miksic, Interior Architecture instructors at the BAC and LAM Partners employees, on a project with NewBridge on the Charles in Danvers, MA, to design better lighting solutions for residents. "NewBridge on the Charles is a community of older people and having improved lighting can reduce their depression and reset their circadian rhythm. Janet and I are designing different levels of packages for the residents. NewBridge has residents as young as 45-50 years old and it is the type of place where people can live for the rest of their lives, so there are some people that could live there for 40-50 years and this lighting could help them as develop issues that can come with aging."

Jori expects the project will wrap up by the end of October when the team will then present their finalized designs to NewBridge on the Charles representatives. "Once the designs are approved, the residents get to choose which of the three packages they want. It is important to see how lighting can affect human health, as there are around 250 apartment units at NewBridge."

With her participation in the NewBridge project and getting to visit Boston twice a year during Intensive Weeks, Jori is making the most of her BAC experience. "Intensives really allow for the experiential aspect of learning and coming to Boston is great because it is such an historic city and I see how there is a confliction of sites here because Boston has so much history and there is such a depth to it."

Jori is also intrigued in the difference between Boston's and Lafayette's handling of social issues, like drug abuse and treatment. "Generally speaking, Boston is more open minded than Lafayette,  in terms of having the methadone clinic right in the city. In Lafayette, there is a distinct line through the city separating the part of the city with working class people versus the part of the city that would have treatment centers and where the perceived lower-class people live, whereas Boston has a methadone clinic located directly in a busy area of the city populated by middle to upper class populations."

During Intensives in August, Jori's Design for Human Health class visited Boston's methadone clinic and got to see firsthand how the clinic operates, its policy, and how people in and out of the clinic relate to each other. After that experience, Jori wants to take what she learned back to Lafayette and change how people relate to similar clinics and how the environment can change people and bring them together. "A properly designed and built environment can help and I want to be part of the process of facilitating design choices."

For now, Jori is busy balancing work and school. In addition to her job at Magnificat Travel, Jori runs a small graphic design agency with a friend, and has two other side projects: Grow Acadiana, a small business looking to partner with local businesses to increase the amount of greenery in public spaces and to encourage people to spend more time in these spaces, and scio Design, her nonprofit seeking to better the world by constructing community spaces. "Our goal is to remind humanity of its Beauty, Truth, and Goodness through community. Design is a humanitarian action, creating and encouraging the ability to know, to understand, and to be conscious of these principles."

Jori has big plans for when she graduates from the BAC. "I want to teach architectural classes with a focus on design for human health. There aren't that many classes that emphasize it, and I believe that designing for human health is incredibly important and I want to share what I've learned with others so we, as architects and designers, can have a greater impact on people through our designs."