Kyle Pretka, a graduate of the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, is living his dream. He’s residing in sunny southern California designing skate parks. One of his recent projects was creating the skateboard course for the 2016 X Games in Austin, Texas. Here’s what he said in an interview.
What was your major in the College? When did you graduate? With what degree?
My major was landscape architecture (LA). I graduated in May 2015. I received a BS in landscape architecture with a minor in ornamental horticulture.
What class was most useful to you?
All of the design classes in the LA program were really useful to me. I use the skills I was taught from those classes every single day. If I had to pick one class that stood out, I would say the model building course I took in my junior year really taught me a lot about design and spatial relationships. It is crucial to everything I do now. The class was all about creating abstract designs that fit the guidelines of a given project. It forced you to be creative and think outside the box, which I believe is necessary if you want to be a successful designer.
Tell us some of your fond memories of UConn.
The time spent with people that I met at UConn are my favorite memories. I met some of my best friends here and had some of the best times of my life because of them. It was a really unique experience to have such small classes. There were only twelve other students graduating from my major on a campus that has over 18,000 undergraduates, and so I ended up becoming great friends with everyone in my program.
I remember what a crazy night it was when the men’s basketball team won the NCAA championship in 2014. I was watching the Huskies game on big screens at Gampel Pavilion with everybody else on campus that night. I’ll never forget the vibe; everybody was so amped up. When we won the game, we flooded onto the court to celebrate. It was cool to be a part of that.
Please describe your current job.
I am a designer for California RampWorks. California RampWorks is a prestigious skate park design-build firm. We create skate parks for events like the X Games, Dew Tour, Van Doren Invitational and many more all over the world. I have been helping create the designs, which have to be progressive in their aesthetics, form and flow in order to develop exciting events and parks.
Are you doing what you imagined you would be doing at this point in your life?
I’ve had the goal of being a skate park designer since I was a sophomore, but I never thought I would be designing for one of the best skate park design firms in the world this early on in my career. However, I’ve been skateboarding for over ten years and to be able to apply those years of hard work and experience to my landscape architecture schooling has opened so many doors for me. I would not be able to be a skate park designer without those two components, which is the main reason I was able to fit right into the RampWorks crew.
Do you have advice for current students that will help them in the future?
My advice for current students is don’t be afraid to take risks. I was the only one in my classes that was interested in designing skate parks. When I graduated from UConn I had a job offer in Connecticut, and there was a lot of pressure on me to take that job, but I’ve always had the dream of living in California and pursuing a career in the skateboarding industry. So I took a chance, moved out to California and went for it. I might have been a little lucky as well, but I don’t think people should be settling for something they don’t want, especially when you go to a great school like UConn.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
I have never really been a fan of the snowy, cold winters in Connecticut. I like to be outside and active and California seemed like the perfect place for that. I have been picking up surfing in my spare time out here and I am able to skateboard all year round. I live in San Diego and it’s been really awesome exploring a new place; it’s a great city.