In the Eyes of an Architecture Student: Answering “What class is your favorite?”

Hi everyone! I know it’s been a while, with break and everything, but I’m back again this week to open a discussion about my answer to the question, “what class is your favorite?”

And yes, I am well aware that this is one of those cliche icebreaker questions, but it’s actually also a common question you’ll hear people in studio talking to each other about from time to time, whether it’s asking for peer suggestions on what class to replace with another, or just curiosity. With that said, I’m also well aware that prospective students are probably wondering the same thing and probably worried about the answer I’ll give like, “oh jeez, will I be able to enjoy such a class myself?”

Again, in no way am I representative of the whole body of architecture students here at the University of Michigan, where we all have different values and aspirations, so each one of our answers to this question will likely vary.


Over the years, I’ve taken a great mix of courses.

  1. I will say that the first year, I took mostly prerequisites such as calculus and English, and this is similar to what other majors do as well. within the first year. Is this enjoyable? Well, you definitely will still be adjusting to college lifestyle and workload to a certain degree, but it seems to me that this is the closest you will get to high school courses. I personally see prerequisites as bridging the gap between your high school education and the educational standards at the University of Michigan. These courses are just the bland standard to me, they’re just in place to ensure you can handle survival at this university, and they’re just in the way to the actual excitement of your discipline, which is to come! I believe you only get a peak at your discipline in the first year. I remember taking a few basically introductory courses to architecture, and feeling hungry for more of it.
  2. In the second year, you’ll be finishing up prerequisites and taking more official architecture courses to set you up for the studio life that’s to come. This includes actually purchasing expensive drafting equipment, constructing your first models, learning studio sharing culture, along with being thrown into a few different software programs that you’ll be expected to learn either on your own or with your studio mates. Honestly, this year is both exciting and frustrating because you’re finally tasting what it takes to become an architect, but you’re also held back by the fact that you can’t really do “real” architectural stuff if you haven’t intermediately mastered such materials.
  3. In the third year, you’ll be using everything you’ve learned in the past two years and applying it to hypothetical, yet realistic scenarios in studio. You will (likely) become more digitally oriented because of the amount of work asked to produced in both the forms of drawings, renderings, and scaled models. And you’ll probably also be getting a nice camera to document all the amazing work you’ve done so that you can create your own portfolio that’ll lead you to internships.
  4. In the fourth year (my current year), you’ll be sort of be given more freedom in terms of deciding on what aspects to focus on when creating the project, but you will still have a structured prompt given to you in studio, along with a professor who will oversee your work and give you suggestions, but it’s definitely a more self-oriented year where you can take more electives as well, to ensure that you can get more flavor into the architectural experience that you’d like to get out of the university. I’ve actually taken my non-architectural electives during my sophomore year, but I’ve been taking more architectural electives these past semesters. A bit off track, but I’ve finally been able to get into a health design course that I’ve been looking for for awhile (it’s a completely new course) and I’m VERY stoked that the professor seems amazing, and this course is so valuable in that it provides interdisciplinary perspectives to architecture and its effects on both physical and mental health. Anyway, I was just really happy about that and wanted to share that with you all!
    With that said, I would have to say that my hands-down favorite course, out of all of the courses I’ve taken all of these semesters here at the University of Michigan in architecture is my first studio course, UG1. People claim it is the “weeder course” because it is the first time you are asked to apply a plethora of newly-acquired skills into a real world scenario, with many projects thrown at you. But I personally found that it was the most imaginative studio. And, hear me out. Yes, you are asked to do all of those things listed above as a newly developing designer, but you’re also given less restrictions because at that point we have not quite understood building code and real-world spatial regulations. You’re able to freely express yourself and that is what I found the most refreshing, because all options are “on the table” so to speak.


Unfortunately I gotta launch back into my assignments again, but I’m so excited to hear your comments and thoughts on this blog! Once again, if you haven’t already, if you want to see more of my photography and what studio works I’ve been up to, give me a follow on instagram: @themichiganarchitect
Ciao 🙂

Echoes of Identity

A while back, one of my blog posts focused on the topic of race in drama. The inspiration for that discussion were my experiences in a class that—here’s a big surprise—examined race in drama. The class? RCHUMS 390: Contemporary Plays on Race in America.

When you think of plays by American playwrights, you might think of plays such as Tony Kushner’s Angels in America or Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. These works are often considered examples of America’s greatest plays—Arthur Miller was a U of M graduate, after all—so your thought process would be understandable. What I challenge you to do, however, is to consider reading or learning about American plays by playwrights of color.

As my professor, Kate Mendeloff, was exploring contemporary plays a few years ago, she discovered that some of the most poignant and interesting works she came across were written by playwrights of color surrounding topics such as race and disparity. Inspired by the discovery, she created the class to bring attention to talented playwrights of color and their works.

Just as the title suggests, my drama class had us study contemporary plays on race in America and other works by playwrights of color. The course included reading works representing a variety of identities, discussing them in class, and acting out scenes from several of the plays. It was interesting analyzing how the characters’ racial and ethnic identities impacted their stories and interactions with other characters. Immigration, drug addiction, and intercultural relationships were some of the topics addressed by the plays in class. They also tackled a variety of time periods and issues, such as the 1967 Detroit riots (Spirit of Detroit by Mercilee Jenkins, Detroit ’67 by Dominique Morisseau).

Facing Our Truth: Ten Minute Plays on Trayvon, Race and Privilege was a collection of plays written by six diverse playwrights as a reaction to the George Zimmerman verdict, while Flint by SMTD faculty member and playwright José Casas explored the water crisis through narratives based on the people affected by the city’s tragedy.

As our final project, our class presented a public performance to feature what we learned and worked on throughout the semester. Some students presented original monologues that illustrated personal experiences on race and privilege, while others presented mashups of monologues from Lorraine Hansberry’s famous A Raisin in the Sun and Joshua Harmon’s plays titled Admissions and Bad Jews. There were also scenes excerpted from plays read in class, like Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World by Yussef El Guindi.

Overall, the class was both enjoyable and educational. I challenge you to give one of the mentioned plays a try and comment your reaction below!


Photo Credit: Robby Griswold

Check out the RC for more classes and awesome opportunities!

In the Eyes of an Architecture Student: Projects and their Realities

Hi everyone!I’m back again this week to discuss the topic: Projects and their Realities!

No matter what your major is, or whatever your specific task is at your workplace, I’m sure you’ve asked yourself why you’ve been assigned to do such a task, and how it benefits your future in terms of employment or its effects on the world.


As an architecture student, I often find myself doing the same.
Actually, I often find it TOO difficult to detach myself from what’s assigned in my classes. This may sound normal, but for me, it’s been a bit of an issue sometimes because I’m human and tend to take things a little too seriously and personally sometimes. It’s mostly an issue during presentations and critiques. Projects are often given in prompts detailing certain parameters we can work in, and are often situated within real sites. Oftentimes, we visit these sites and document them, looking deep into the details of their location and questioning why certain buildings or clusters of buildings, are situated as they are, and interpreting why we think they look the way that they do. Projects must have some sort of root within their site, which makes them feel more real, as though my design in the end will be an actual constructed building. In other words, I suppose it is the nature of our work that inevitably makes it feel ultra-personal. I put a lot of thought and sometimes even pull from memories to detail design proposals, and that’s what makes it feel almost embarrassing (probably not the right term)  to present my ideas in front of these award-accredited professors and critics, and when they critique my work in even a bit of a harsher tone, I find myself feeling the blow to my ego.
But, really, the issue was how I framed my mindset about the projects. The presentations are simply supposed to be discussions with guests so we can be provided with fresh, outside perspectives rather than just our own professors’ suggestions. The presentations often become tense experiences because of intimidation about our preconceptions about people and their status and our imagined view of their judgements on us, which then influences us to dress as best as we can (which isn’t always the most comfortable attire) and pull all-nighters so that the images we print out for the pin-up display will be our best representation of our ideas and, in turn, ourselves. The point is, whatever feedback the critics give, they’re all about improving the ideas we’ve presented to them- the feedback is not meant to be a personal attack on ourselves (usually), But yes, the feedback they give also makes the projects feel more real, because it is a discussion on hypothetical scenarios of our design, which is meant to prepare us for future projects that may actually be constructed live!
For the projects themselves, on the other hand, I think it’s safe and completely reasonable to think about them as a real-life setting so we can completely immerse ourselves in the design process and best discover what interests us most, and the logical design features behind those interests.


Unfortunately I gotta launch back into my assignments again, but I’m so excited to hear your comments and thoughts on this blog!
Ciao 🙂

Why I Love Taking an Acting Class

This semester, I wanted to take some type of humanities course that wouldn’t be too demanding on top of my other fourteen credits. I’ve always enjoyed subjects related to the arts, so it seemed to be a good idea to take a course that would be interesting but also act as a form of creative expression. An acting class, which goes towards the Humanities and RC requirements, seemed like the perfect option.

Like many others at U of M, my high school career was a busy one, filled with various  extracurricular activities. One of these activities was drama, primarily through my high school’s theater program. Musicals, plays, etc. were a huge part of my life. By being in an acting class, I’ve been given a convenient way to continue doing something that I enjoy. Having a class based on it forces me to keep it in my life without feeling guilty for dedicating so much time to it (at least for this semester).

Acting class, for me, is a huge stress reliever. While there are times I don’t feel like trudging to outside rehearsals or spending my Friday nights memorizing lines, drama is an escape from everything else that is going on. I can walk into the theater and immediately become immersed in the story at hand. For a moment, my worries melt away as I turn my attention towards the director and other actors. Rather than thinking about the upcoming midterms or essays due dates, I can focus on developing a character and making the scene come to life.

In my acting class, there are no specialized auditions, no ensemble characters, and no hiding in the background. Everyone is thrust into a role that’s been assigned and encouraged to step out of their comfort zone. There is a sense of vulnerability as classmates – and eventually audience members – see you portray emotional or outrageous characters. In my class’s  production of Love and Information last Saturday, I had the opportunity to play a series of characters (which I’ll talk about more in my next post). In our next project, I play a girl with a stutter who is remarkably kind, naive, and humorous. In this class, I’ve had the opportunity to portray both sensitive and comedic characters that don’t always follow the basic typecasting based on appearance or demeanor.

Many other students hold similar experiences in taking on different roles within our class. My peers represent a diversity of majors and have varying skill levels when it comes to acting, but have stepped up to the challenge in building characters and their unique story lines. While many people are taking the class because they enjoyed participating in plays or musicals in high school, there are other students who’ve never set foot on a stage before. In addition to the personal benefits I’ve received in taking this class, it’s been amazing to see several people discover a new passion, and I’ve loved seeing everyone in general continue to develop in confidence and communication skills.

(Image Credits: Google Images)

Moments of Sunfusion.

My professor started screaming. 20 of us sat still, stared in confusion, and waited for her to finish.


There was nothing there. Well, besides, a chalkboard. Time slowed as we collectively tried to figure out what was going on. Our eyes widened, we thought if we tried to absorb as much as possible things would start to make sense. But, they didn’t. Confusion is like slow motion and you know if things would just speed up some type of conclusion would be reached, some explanation would be found. Every second drips down like a leaking faucet and all that piles up is blank, somber faces and a pool full of meaningless seconds ticking past, leading no where. Which could be beautiful, let’s face it; however, in this instance, all I could conclude was that the world had ended and we were breaking into millions of little pieces. Casual.


In my mind I jumped out of my chair. Knocking it over, kicking the two-person table aside, I bolted forward (the mere 3 or so feet) to look, touch, taste, feel, hear, watch the board. Looking, I saw only bits of chalk. Sharp and jagged, cutting the board–was there a tear in the board? Were we looking into another possible world? As I tasted the board I realized, thankfully, David Lewis wasn’t lurking behind me–my tongue learned of linear algebra, the furthest cosmos, lines from Finnegans Wake, the greek alphabet–and my spine seemed to straighten out as the last bouts of goosebumps settled from off my skin. Dancing around, quaking (or honking) . . . what does the goose say? . . . I understood that something was in the air.


There were massive amounts of glitter falling from the sky. As if we were in some 60’s discotheque in Paris, I looked down and only found leather. Chains and chaps and whips and all of a sudden I woke up in “A Room of My Own” to find briefcases. Briefcases, in this moment, of snow of light of waves of winter.


No. Breasts weren’t all angular on the board. There were no bombs. No urinals. Not even some smudged version of a sunset seen at a distance of 3 kilometres. There were no men, no Mary. Not even a signature. My eyes were not burning nor seething. The obscenity she saw lurked behind a cover? a wall? the air? a question?


And everyone’s shut but mine.

The sun–a traveller with a case of wanderlust mixed with ennui–moves about and rarely even shows up. Hiding behind layers of wool, since is freezing this time of year, the sun wallows; the artic blast/vortex/shenanigans is worse in space, ‘tis eternal. So when the sun shows up to the party, I celebrate. I’ll let you all fade away into the walls and the sun and I can have the dance floor. Now that’s art.

Some sunlight strewn across the blackboard? Naw, not art–just a little glimpse of happiness, a moment of being, in between the silences of dull seconds piling up in the  clogged drain of yesterday.

10 Reasons why Fitzgerald (not the president) Knows

So I read “The Great Gatsby” in 10th grade. I was 15, living in suburbia and confused about the major topics in the novel–racism and eugenics, gangster/mob culture, and perceiving reality (alcohol).
I loved it then. And I love it now. Rereading the book for my Visual Cultures of the Modern Novel class has been such a treat. I now get things that are going on in the novel that weren’t talked about in my high school class (everything is homoerotic). And I feel that Fitzgerald, in describing the 20’s, describes college and he KNOWS my interactions with the world.
1. Friday, Friday, Gotta Get Down on Friday:

Daisy: “I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it” (16). Friday should be the longest day of the week–a day I don’t have class, a day where I wake up and cope from watching Scandal with a workout, a day where I don’t leave my apartment until 9pm. But all of a sudden I wake up in a haze with the sun attacking my eyes and it’s Saturday. Boo hiss. Friday over.
2. Everyone’s stupid and everything hurts:

Tom: “He’s so dumb he doesn’t know he’s alive” (30). Tom gets few things besides racism, classism, sexism, ableism, and ageism. But the other thing he knows is that most people I interact with don’t know that they’re alive. “Woah, I’m white–what does that mean? I have privilege?” My response: “oh, another one of you non-alive folks.” Or those people who ask me if I’m dressed up in costume on Halloween (today!) and I’m in regular clothes (peacock earrings, harem pants, tie-dye shirt, neon coat, stilettos).  These non-alive people are worse than zombies and at least Tom (and I) call them out.
3. We’re all gonna die:

Myrtle:  “You can’t live forever, you can’t live forever” (40). She gets this whole mortal thing (and this being-unto-death thing). As the first(?) character to die, she gets the #yolo life. While I will hopefully live more than once, more than 5 is a bit much–Myrtle understands. I refuse to JUST #yolo, but I’m ok with dying after one too many.
4 . To be a freshman is to thirsty:

Nick: “I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited” (45). Everyone at Gatsby’s party just shows up. WHAT. Its like all those nasty freshman that appear out of nowhere, all wearing AP Government shirts or their greek life paraphernalia, that drink the whole keg and then flirt with literally everyone. It’s the best when you’re at a small house party and the freshman flock to show up, finding 15 people discussing cultural appropriation and some good speakers. Come at me, freshman!
5. I’m going to leave this gem hear:

Owl Eyes:  “I’ve been drunk for about a week now, and I thought it might sober me up to sit in a library” (50).
6. And this:

“‘Anyhow he gives large parties,’ said Jordan, changing the subject with an urban distaste for the concrete. ‘And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy’” (54).

Young Lady: “‘[R]each me a rose, honey, and pour me a last drop into that there crystal glass’” (65).
8. Everyone is reckless:

Gatsby: “‘I tried very hard to die but I seemed to bear an enchanted life’” (70). Sometimes you are out until 5am, sometimes you are awake in the library until 5am with marker smudges all over your face, sometimes you drink 2 pots of coffee a day, sometimes you sleep 12 hours to cope, sometimes you eat only hummus, sometimes you j-walk like life isn’t real and its raining and you jump into a bush to avoid a car (unlike Myrtle). Everyone is so intense but if the world likes us, we live to see tomorrow.
9. People troll and derail pretty much everything.

Narrator: “The automatic quality of Gatsby’s answer set us all back at least another minute” (92).
10. Aesthetics are real. Everything is Campy.

Daisy: “‘They’re such beautiful shirts,’ she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. ‘It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such–such beautiful shirts before” (98).
The Great Gatsby might infuriate you. It might inspire you. It might make you nostalgic or make you happy that this century is not a teenager. But, either way, it gets some things. Gets them well.