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Ruhnau Clarke Architects firmly believes that our people are our greatest asset and our success is directly related to the diverse, collective experiences of our employees. One of the ways we invest in our people is through our annual XPLORE program. The XPLORE program was established in 2015 to expose individuals to experiences that connect them to a wider span of influence, with the hope that these experiences will result in personal growth and creative renewal that is reflected into all aspects of their lives. Each year, one winner is selected to receive an extra week of paid time off and a travel stipend to go anywhere in the world.

This opportunity is open to all employees of the firm and applications are reviewed by an impartial jury of highly respected individuals. We extend a huge thank you to this year’s jury— compiled of talented clients, consultants, and peers—who took the time to carefully review each application and select Ms. Jennifer Nguyen as the 2017 XPLORE winner!

 Jennifer Nguyen

Jennifer Nguyen

Jennifer will be traveling to several European countries to study The Sound of Memory. The purpose of her exploration will be to explore music as a stimulus to liberate lost memories of Alzheimer patients. Jennifer was inspired by a neighbor she knew who suffered from Alzheimer’s. Growing up, Jennifer often played Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”’ on the piano as her neighbor took her morning strolls. Through her open window, she would find her neighbor’s reactions to this music to be curious and calming. Since those days, every time Jennifer hears “Moonlight Sonata” she is taken back to this very moment in time. If her neighbor heard the same piece, she wonders if it would bring her back to the memory of those mornings too.

This inspired Jennifer to plan a trip to Finland, Italy and Switzerland where the population of Alzheimer patients has grown within the past few years. Jennifer plans to join hands with the people of The Alzheimer's Association to bring back joy to those who suffer from this disease. She is hoping these efforts will resurface lost memories forgotten in elderly Alzheimer patients through the transmittance of music.

Artwork submitted by Jennifer Nguyen.

Based on her research, Jennifer stated, “Neuroscience has proven to share an intimately strong connection in the human brain for both music and memory. Recent studies have shown that many Alzheimer patients can remember and sing songs long after they lose memory of familiar names and faces. Hearing a song can bring a person back decades at a time and as far back as three past generations. Our minds string music to be in shape with our autobiographical memories and emotional responses throughout our lifetime. This oftentimes trigger memories we may not always consciously be aware of. For those suffering memory loss, music becomes a catalyst for remembering the past and curing a deteriorating mind.”

Jennifer is eager to begin her research and uncover these memories first hand. She said, “I am still at such a loss for words. It is unreal for me to have the opportunity to do research that allows me to step outside of my comfort zone and study something I feel passionate about yet know very little of. I cannot be more grateful and can only hope to bring back a story worth telling.”

Jennifer has yet to determine when she will set out on this adventure, but we know that she will come back with a story that will touch many hearts.