Congratulations to our 2020 graduates! Read the the third installment of our series from our 2016 Diversity Advancement Scholar, Shannar O’Connor.

Shannar O'ConnorThe past five years of architecture school have been the most transformative years of my life. I had many hardships, but also a plethora of rewarding experiences. From the beginning, the odds were never in my favor, being that I am a black woman from a single parent, immigrant family. However, my hard work, determination, and aid from scholarships, such as the Architects Foundation Diversity Advancement Scholarship, The Villagers Preservation Scholarship, and the Colin MacDonald Betsch Memorial Award, helped me to accomplish one of my major life goals—graduating Summa Cum Laude with a B.Arch degree from my dream university (the University of Miami). Furthermore, much of my success could also be attributed to the people who believed in me along the way: My high school counselor, who was and is there for me whenever my self-confidence wavers; my college advisor, whose persistence made it financially possible for me to attend the University of Miami (after I had already committed to another university); the professors that believed in me and my abilities; the principal at my 2018 Summer internship with Harrison Design (Naples, FL), who helped further my knowledge of residential architecture; my supervisor at my 2020 Spring internship with Stantec (Miami, FL), who saw potential in me as an interior designer and gave me the chance to shine by encouraging me and giving me great responsibilities; and most of all, my mom, who is my best friend and my rock.

Some of the college courses that have molded me into the designer that I am today, include my minor in art, the furniture design and design/build studio courses that I was able to take, and the upper-level studio courses that pushed me to think outside of the box. However, my most rewarding and eye-opening college experience was my semester studying abroad in Rome, Italy. I had never felt more at home in a foreign country. The people were so welcoming, the culture was fascinating, and the architecture was awe-inspiring. Also, because of the nature of the program, I got to travel all over the country, learn a great deal about Italy’s rich cultural history, try water coloring for the first time, and build life-long bonds with my peers and professors, who are now affectionately known as “mi piccola famiglia” or my small family. This experience taught me the importance of travel and inter-cultural exploration, as well as, helped me to discover my passion for interior architecture/ design.

Now that I have graduated, my goal is to gain more experience in the interior architecture/ design field and then in the future, start my own design firm, specializing in interiors, furniture design, and product design. Since being back home, due to the pandemic, I have had plenty of time to reflect on the past five years of architecture school and the biggest lesson that this education has taught me, is how to creatively problem solve. This lesson is not only going to aid me in my career as a designer, but also in life.

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