The Future of the Industry 2024: Updates from Graduate Preservation Programs

We are excited to bring you updates from the future preservationists of Georgia! Students in Historic Preservation and related fields have accomplished a lot this academic year and have contributed to interesting projects across the state and the country! Many are also participating in internships in the preservation field this summer. These students and recent graduates bring so much to the table with their experiences and perspectives. We look forward to seeing what they do in preservation in Georgia and the wider world in the years to come. Read more below about updates from the 2023-2024 academic year provided by four programs across Georgia.


Graduate-level preservation degree programs are offered at Georgia State University, Savannah College of Art and Design, and the University of Georgia. SCAD offers an undergraduate BFA in Preservation Design as well. Preservation-focused courses are offered at Kennesaw State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia Southern University, Savannah Technical College, and the University of West Georgia.


Associate Professor Danielle Willkens continues to work with several students, developing projects on the intersections of digital documentation, heritage tourism, and preservation technology through seminars, independent studies, and sponsored research.

  1. With M.Arch candidate Thomas Bordeaux, we’re continuing to work with the NPS (via CESU agreement) on documenting and visualizing the Wallis House within the Kennesaw Battlefield. We’ve made some interesting structural discoveries, and we're eager to see how this work will be translated into some new interpretation at the site.
  2. An Undergraduate Sustainability Education Innovation Grant from GT supported spring 2024 work at the NHLD Penn Center, SC, for “Sustainable Tourism: Engaged Digital Documentation and Interpretation” for the Race, Space, and Architecture in the US seminar. Interdisciplinary by nature, this course references the projects and methodologies of architects and architectural historians, as well as archaeologists, artists, designers, environmentalists, ethnographers, photographers, urbanists, sociologists, technicians, and writers. We cover topics and themes across the U.S.; however, our focus is decidedly on the American South, leveraging our location in Atlanta. Over the last three years, this course explored various sites in Atlanta and one in Marion, AL. In 2024, this semester we placed the only two National Historic Landmark Districts (NHLD) focused on African American history and culture in conversation: the Penn Center (NHLD est.2017) in St. Helena Island, SC and Sweet Auburn (NHLD est.1976) in Atlanta, GA. Following on-site exploration with the MLK, Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, the seminar completed a 4-day intensive field studies program at the Penn Center, SC in early February. Here, students met key program leaders, elected officials, and alumni, as well as local residents. During the semester, students explored preservation technology as a catalyst for resiliency, sustainability, and heritage tourism. Products include new site survey materials, public-facing interpretation materials, oral history captures, a physical model of the historic campus, and a website reorganization proposal. 
  3. Working with the Smithsonian, Sharon Park, FAIA (emeritus Associate Director for Architectural History + Historic Preservation), PhD candidate Botao Li, M.Arch candidate Roy Luo, and M.Arch (’23) + MS in Digital Media candidate Yizhou Lin are developing an illustrated historical preservation glossary for wood deterioration. This interactive pilot project will identify aesthetic, material, and structural defects. The project will cultivate a taxonomy and semantics for future development, establishing a system for potential AI machine learning and HBIM integration.  This is an exercise in material research, image collection, organization, and user interface. This pilot project is a critical endeavor for future development and can potentially be a transformative resource within the realm of historic preservation. 
  4. M.Arch ’23 Patricia Rangel, PhD candidate Botao Li, and recent PhD graduate Junshan Liu presented the paper, "Defect Monitoring and Predictive Modeling: an Atlanta Case Study” on the English Avenue Elementary School at the REHABEND Euro-American Congress on Construction Pathology, Rehabilitation Technology, and Heritage Management in Gijion, Spain on May 9, 2024. Ongoing documentation and analysis of the building are supported by an NPS African American Civil Rights Grant administered by the Atlanta Preservation Center. 

In mid-April, Junshan Liu successfully defended his PhD dissertation on “Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) in Heritage Documentation: Developing a Best Practice Guide for Optimal Data Acquisition.” A portion of his literature has been published in Virtual Worlds , and his conceptual framework for integrating TLS in HABS has been published in Architecture. He is currently pursuing publication options for the dissertation. 

Dean of Libraries Leslie Sharp led a historic preservation seminar in the spring semester, and the students’ research projects will inform the study day (October 5) for the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians’ (SESAH) 2024 Annual Conference in Marietta, GA 


  • Madison Cosby wrote an article entitled, “The Women of Preservation” published in The Rambler, the quarterly publication of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation
  • Rachael Bradbury, Sylvia Craft, Parker Hilley, and Lauren Reeves participated in a cemetery conservation workshop on Daufuskie Island, SC led by Jason Church from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
  • Sarah Borcherding, Eric Menninger, and Kristen Thomas presented posters at the 2023 GA Statewide Historic Preservation Conference
  • Natasha Washington presented her work documenting the Maryfield Cemetery on Daufuskie Island, SC at the 2024 International Gullah Geechee and African Diaspora Conference

*HPD note: Natasha Washington has also been interning with the Georgia African American Historic Preservation Network (GAAHPN) at the HPD!


The following is a list of the graduating students from the MFA, MA, and BFA Preservation Design programs. Congratulations Graduates!

M.F.A in Preservation Design - Thesis

  • Jackie Boling - Perceptions of Preservation: Exploring Socioeconomic Disparities in Valuing and Protecting Cultural Heritage
  • Zheng He - Cemeteries Matter: Finding Balance Between Biodiversity, Sustainability and Cultural Landscape
  • Madeline Jensen - Evolving the Ordinary - Maximizing Value in Everyday Architecture through Conceptually - Informed Adaptive Reuse Strategies
  • Daniela Salume Velasquez - From Policy to Practice: Evaluating the Implementation of Deconstruction Ordinances in Historic Cities in the U.S.

M.A. in Preservation Design - Capstone

  • Sebastian Escobar Campos - Historical Sites and Sustainable Tourism: Redesigning Bogota Bolivar Square 
  • Alex Dandridge - Maximizing the Minimum: Uncovering the Historical Significance of Post World War II Suburb’s and its Minimal Traditional Housing 
  • Kate Dutilly - Office to Residential Conversions: A Design Proposal for the Atlantic Constitution Building 
  • Pari Kemp - Enhanced Community Resilience Plans in Endangered Coastal Regions of Tampa Bay:  Preservationists Role Pre- and Post-Disaster and AI Documentation Technology
  • Adam McCown - Temporality: An Exploration of the Barriers to the Preservation of Post Modern Architecture and strategies to (re)evaluate
  • Hannah McGuire - The Ranch House vs. Modern Residential Construction 

B.F.A in Preservation Design - Capstone

  • Edward Harrison - Moving Buildings: Environmental Change and the Solution 
  • James D. Yeager - The Preservation of Civic Well-being & Urban Beauty: Infill Master Planning to Design Gates of Place for Main Streets in Historic Downtowns


The following theses were defended by students in the Master of Historic Preservation program (Sum23-Spring 24):

  • Tim Brown - A Practical Landscape: Robert Cridland and the Gardens of Oak Hill
  • Clarissa Gearner - The Same River: Interpreting the Eastern Agricultural Complex at Red River Gorge, Kentucky
  • Sarah Owen - Sickness is a Place: Interpretation of Disability at Andalusia, the Home of Flannery O'Connor
  • Kayla McElreath - Foundations: Significance of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Skate Landscapes
  • Cameron NeSmith - The Visibility of the Invisible: Mini-Case Studies on Black Americans & the tools of Preservation and Planning
  • Casey Emmett - Advertising Lincrusta:  Analyzing Marketing Materials for “The King of Wall Hangings” in the 18th and 19th Centuries
  • Keith Halcomb - Through the Heart of Railroad Preservation: Adaptive Use of Railroad Depots for Community Benefit from Elberton to West Point, Georgia.
  • Elizabeth Lynn Jones - Zion Hill Cemetery: Preserving a Vanishing Cultural Heritage Through Documentation, Restoration, and Engagement
  • Inga Gudmundsson McGuire - Pittsburgh's Forgotten Architect: The Work and Significance of Joseph Stillburg (1847-1923)
  • Margot McLaughlin - The Evolution of the Pulse Nightclub Memorial: From Vernacular to Official
  • Shelby McWhirter - A Multivocal, Interpretive Framework for the Peopling of the Americas

Kayla McElreath won a Graduate Research Fellowship from the Southeastern Society of Architectural Historians in 2023. She presented her work, based on her thesis on the preservation of DIY skate landscapes at their annual meeting in Little Rock in November. 

Elizabeth Jones won the 2023 Elizabeth Lyon Fellowship from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. She recently delivered an online lecture based on her work preserving and sustaining community involvement around endangered black cemeteries. 


The FindIt Historic Resource Survey Partnership is a state-wide cultural resource survey program created to help document historic resources throughout Georgia and facilitate their preservation. Housed within the Center for Community Design and Preservation at the UGA College of Environment and Design, the FindIt program is a unique learning experience whereby students are trained to conduct field work, data entry, and architectural analysis.

FindIt is currently undertaking two large surveys of Athens-Clarke County and Macon, GA, to document mid-century commercial and residential resources. We are also conducting a smaller survey of the Normaltown neighborhood of Athens and creating a Storymap as part of our outreach to residents.  As active surveyors, FindIt students continue to help our statewide partners test a new survey app based on ESRI's ArcGIS Field Maps app but customized to integrate with the GNAHRGIS statewide database.

Mid-Century Resources, Athens-Clarke Co. GA
This survey of the unincorporated areas of Athens-Clarke County began in 2019. It is a multi-year initiative conducted at the behest of Georgia Transmission Corporation (GTC), FindIt’s main sponsor. The majority of these resources are mid-century subdivisions that include the ubiquitous Ranch House as well as residences that reflect post-war Modernism as well as neo-traditional styles and forms.

Normaltown neighborhood, Athens GA
FindIt began a survey of Normaltown in Summer 2023 to practice recognizing types and styles of residential buildings from the early 19th century up to the mid-20th century, including a notable collection of American Small Houses.  By including findings in a StoryMap, residents can easily access research on the history and evolution of their neighborhood, learn about architectural types and styles that are prevalent, and share their own personal stories.

GNARHGIS Field Survey App testing
FindIt students have helped the State Historic Preservation Office test the new CRSurveyor app that was developed by the National Park Service and is based on ESRI's ArcGIS Field Maps app.  SHPO’s partners at the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government have customized this app to align with the statewide database known as "GNAHRGIS," a catalog of information about the state's natural, archaeological, and historic resources.  This app will streamline field surveys by allowing for photographs to be geo-located and associated with data collected in real time.

Mitigation Survey, Macon GA
This windshield survey is a multi-year endeavor that FindIt is undertaking on behalf of GDOT as part of a mitigation proposal for a federal highway project. FindIt is tasked with documenting buildings and districts built before 1981 that are not already designated as historic. The scope of work includes about 28,000 parcels that are 40 years old or older.