Students create floor plans for Paradise


Rouben Mohiuddin instructs a circle of Chico State Architecture students in class. Photo by Emily Neria

In the wake of the Camp Fire, there was a sense among the Chico State student body of “What can I do to help?” While the answer for many students was classic volunteer work, making donations or providing emotional support for victims of the fire, a small group of architecture majors found a way to put their specialized skills to use. 

The Rebuild Paradise Internship course incentivizes displaced Paradise residents to move back and rebuild their homes with student-designed floor plans. Using the student’s plans reduces the cost of rebuilding and also provides students with experience working with professionals from the nonprofit, Rebuild Paradise. 

“Making rebuild decisions is very challenging and very traumatic to do, so we wanted to kind of give (returning residents) a package,” Program Coordinator for the Architecture Department Rouben Mohiuddin said. “Like you can take option A, B or C; it’s all fully configured, reducing the amount of stress someone has to go through to make those decisions, and in turn saving them about $10 to $20,000 in design fees prior to the construction process.”   

Beyond community benefits, the students also get to practice their future profession outside of the classroom. 

Joseph McMurchie, a student participating in the internship, had high praise for the program. 

“It was a unique opportunity for me to apply all the stuff we’ve been learning in our classes to a real world setting, and really see the impact of what we do academically in the real world,” McMurchie said. 

The internship course has been offered to Chico State architecture majors since fall of 2019. Program Coordinator Rouben Mohiuddin explained that students were inspired to get involved in the rebuilding process after participating in a few class projects about post-disaster architecture. 

“After initially evacuating, me and my roommates all kind of looked at each other and realized that we were capable of trying to find a way to help out.” McMurchie said, “Really, joining the internship stemmed from that.” 

A meeting with Charles Brooks, the director of Rebuild Paradise, was what inspired architecture student Tara Schjeldahl to join the program. 

“The way he was able to pick himself up and not feel sorry for himself, and be like ‘you know what we’re gonna rebuild our community’, it was really inspiring,” Schjeldahl said. “Just to see that someone who personally went through it was like ‘Okay. I need to do something about this.’” 

Contact with victims of the fire is also something the student interns experience on the job. According to this semester’s Student Project Manager Tatiana Perez, that contact can be very meaningful. 

“I do really enjoy all the relationships I’ve developed with the different people I’ve been able to speak to who have been affected,” Perez said. “I would say that the whole thing has just been very humbling.”   

Mohiuddin explained that “Community participation is a culture that has been a part of the department for a long time.”

“We’ve done many projects within the community — from Oroville, Dog’s Landing, the hospital, we’ve participated with other organizations in town…This was by far our largest collaboration within the community,” Mohiuddin said. 

Mohiuddin encourages any students interested in working with Rebuild Paradise to reach out to him. His email is [email protected] and his office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Arts and Humanities room 216. 

Emily Neria can be reached at @NeriaEmily on Twitter.