Alumni Storytelling Series Teaches DCP Students Valuable Lessons

By Rosa Medina

Whether it was advice, motivation or inspiration, students of the University of Florida’s School of Architecture (SoA) learned valuable life and professional lessons at the Second Annual Coming Home Alumni Storytelling Series.

Students eagerly awaiting last Thursday’s event filled the seats, steps and back wall of Fine Arts B Building in room 105.

Six DCP alumni came to share their experiences and professional journeys. These speakers not only shared their personal stories and current projects, but they also gave students valuable advice applicable to their education and future profession.

When discussing key takeaways from the event, Gabriel Maisonet, a second-year architecture student, learned that plans can change from what you originally thought you would want to do, and this change should be embraced. “It made me more confident that once I become a professional, I can explore my interest and change the scale of design I’m working with as I grow as a designer,” he said.

Architecture students who attended last year’s event spread the word to their friends and told them how interesting and useful the information presented was. With positive feedback from students and professors, it was no shock to see new attendees.

Isabelle Duarte, a second-year architecture student, said the Coming Home Alumni Storytelling Series should be held annually. “It gives students the opportunity to stay the most up to date with the trends and information that our alumni have on life out and in the field,” she said.

As the event came to an end, students got a better understanding of the opportunities presented in the field of architecture. At the event, Natalia Toro, a first-year architecture student, learned it is important to keep trying and keep working hard.

“Architecture is a competitive field and needs passionate and innovative professionals that can take it to the next level,” Toro said.

The six UF School of Architecture Alumni who presented at the Coming Home Series this year were all from the Class of 2005. They were Eric Bellin (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia), Jennifer Daniels (Extell Real Estate Development, New York City), Linda Daniels (Rockwell Group, New York City), Aaron Plewke (Deborah Berke Architects, New York City), Olivia Ramos (Deepblocks, Miami) and Hernan Rivera (Hunton Brady Architects, Orlando).

Also in attendance were four alumni organizers from the same graduating class: Everald Colas (Storyn Studio for Architecture), Adam Casey (MADA+ Design), Sabah Corso (Kaufman Lynn Construction) and Judi Shade Monk, SoA Lecturer.

Shade Monk is one of the faculty coordinators of the event along with SoA associate professor Nina Hofer. They were helped out tremendously by SoA staff, particularly Lisa Haynes and Mary Kramer.

Once the 2019 Coming Home Series concluded, DCP Communications sat down with Shade Monk to get her thoughts on how the event came about and what makes it so valuable.

DCP Communications: How did the idea of hosting this event develop?

Shade Monk: This event was born out of a desire, initiated by members of the SoA Bachelor of Design Class of 2005, to give back to the school, which has given them the rich foundation for the diverse career paths they enjoy today. Additionally, these alumni, who are entering professional leadership positions themselves, wanted to give current students the candid and honest guidance they wish they’d received as students. To talk about not only their professional successes, but their struggles, sidesteps and setbacks. The event endeavors to show students what it looks like to be professionally nimble and resilient, to reframe the definition of professional success and to present some of the myriad professional options and opportunities available to UF SoA graduates who attain our four-year Bachelor of Design degree.

DCP Communications: Approximately how many people attended the event last year?

Shade Monk: Attendance at the 2019 storytelling event approximately doubled that of the 2018 event. We will be sure to reserve a significantly larger space for the 2020 event and are exploring opportunities to continue to evolve and grow the Coming Home Series!

DCP Communications: In your opinion, why is this event beneficial to students?

Shade Monk: For me, the most valuable parts of this program are its diversity and its honesty. The diversity of professional paths that our alumni find themselves on is remarkable and a testament to the broad-based education offered at SoA. It also speaks to the strength of our pedagogy, which focuses on the synthesis and interrogation of ideas and vast amounts of information through iterative making. On the subject of honesty, our alumni reflect openly on the highs and lows of their professional journeys thus far. It’s easy to find information and inspiration on professionals in their best light, celebrating success. It’s far less typical to receive candid commentary about how individuals overcome professional adversity or process difficult choices and scenarios. The Coming Home Series holds the celebration of diversity and honesty at its core.

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