Skip Navigation

Love of Design, Desire to Make Positive Impact And Change How People Feel Drive Poolman

Story By:
Paul Miller | Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations
James Poolman
James holds his scaled-model design of a new barn for a small, farm-based area nonprofit.

For James Poolman ’23, going back to the drawing board is a good thing.

A senior architecture major, James is putting the finishing touches on his Keene State education doing what he loves most, and doing it in the classroom and in real-life, work-like settings. He will graduate with a bachelor’s in Architecture and a minor in Construction Management in the spring.

He is pondering graduate school.

When he begins his career, he aspires to work “as an architectural designer in a setting that maximizes my ability to positively impact the world around me.”

A requisite of his major, James’ work with outside professionals has included working with a local municipality and a nonprofit on significant projects, fully immersed and drawing on all of his architectural design class work and background.

Real-world projects in service to local and regional community organizations are a core tenant not just of the architecture program but across other areas of study at Keene State.

For architecture majors, portfolio development for employment, fellowships, grants, and postgraduate academic opportunities are other areas of program focus, said Donna Paley, a professor of architecture at Keene State.

“Not a lot of people in college get the opportunity to do something that has a chance of being built, like I have now, or presenting a project to a client,” James said. “It puts me ahead of other students, especially in competing for graduate schools.”

Paley called James a “top, top student,” who combines a sensitivity of design with research.

“A lot of the program is very abstract, or art-based” Paley said. “We encourage students to find a balance, to work collaboratively, to listen to clients and to respond with context and responsive designs. The community-based work our students do is just as important as a one-off building design.”

College has taught me so much. This is my fifth year of college, during which I transferred twice and went through the pandemic, which required resilience and adaptability.”

– James Poolman ‘23

For his Sophomore Spring Studio project, James partnered with the City of Keene in the creation of a feasibility study for a multi-level parking garage in the city’s downtown.

His senior capstone project, started and worked on last summer, was the conceptual design of a new barn for a small, farm-based area nonprofit.

Hampshire Country School is a boarding school for 4th-9th grade boys who have difficulty in other educational settings, but who are high-ability by many measures. The school features a functioning, small-scale sustainable farm.

“Our barn, which used to be one of many on this historic property, is not able to accommodate all we would like to do on our farm,” said Beth Venable, Head of School. “Our farm as a whole is quite progressive. Thanks to our farmer, we have been ahead of the curve in terms of regenerative agriculture, while also trying to preserve historic buildings and rock walls.”

For the creative and practical application of his design, James leaned heavily on a book written by animal welfare and autism expert Temple Grandin. A well-known author and speaker, Grandin is an expert on animal behavior and livestock handling, and she is an author and speaker on those topics. Her distinguished five-decade career started after Grandin graduated from Hampshire Country School.

Collaborating with school officials, James produced a needs assessment, design options and a conceptual design for a new barn. In November, he presented his design and scaled model to the school’s Board of Trustees, with positive and promising feedback.

“He really researched the barn project,” Paley said. “He saw the client not just as the Board, but as the students and as those who pay the energy bills. That was the level of integration as he saw it.”

Said James: “It’s gone further than I thought It would go,” Poolman said. “There is always more to be done with a project like this, but everyone has been helpful and engaged. My entire design is made to be strong and simple, that feels safe and that features familiar materials, for both the animals and the boys.”

Jim Draper, a trustee of the school and a former longtime Keene State employee, called James’ work and design “innovative and well thought out.”

“There is a lot to consider and factor in,” Draper said. “A cost-effective steel building, housing for animals, classroom and lab, running water for animals. (The project) matters because 70 to 80 percent of the food grown on the farm is consumed by the people on campus.”

“College has taught me so much,” James said. “This is my fifth year of college, during which I transferred twice and went through the pandemic, which required resilience and adaptability.”

Another of his professors, Paul Fowler, called James, who will graduate also with a minor in Construction Management, a wonderful example of ways in which the college’s graduates are easy fits for a broad range of professional opportunities. Students blend architecture with building science, sustainable design, digital technology and more, along with a larger array of electives, he noted.

As for James, he said, “Beyond his natural ability, he has an incredible work ethic and he’s very mature. James has more underneath him than a lot of students: he’s super inquisitive, mature, and he’s interested in finding the best solution instead of the quickest way of getting something done.”

Related Stories

Contact Keene State College

229 Main Street
Keene, New Hampshire 03435