Why did you decide to come to FIU and to our Interior Architecture program?
In 1992, I got married and moved to Florida. After 20 years of marriage and three wonderful, lovely and gorgeous daughters, I raised a family. I dedicated all those years to teaching my kids how to succeed in life, be happy and be good human beings. Once they had the tools to survive, I was ready to start again! Why FIU? The idea was born out of my passion for design and architecture. Having a background in architecture, I thought why not learn a little more about buildings and construction? But this time I decided to study the interiors, in more detail to make it a complete package.
FIU’s Department of Interior Architecture offered me an accelerated master’s degree with the opportunity to improve my English and stay in Miami with my family. Besides that, it is an accredited program with excellent credentials.
What was your first job after graduating from FIU-IA?
I worked for a few months as a senior designer at Paula Hesch Design Miami on residential projects. However, I felt that something was missing at that time. Early in my career as an architect, I had the opportunity to teach. I kept that taste for teaching and helping a new generation of designers to better understand our profession. So, then-Interior Architecture chair, Janine King gave me the opportunity to teach as an instructor in the interior architecture program at FIU and since then three years have already passed!
How did your experiences and your education at FIU-IA shape your life after college and your career path thus far?
The beginning wasn’t easy. At my age, it is not common for people to be in college studying for a new degree. Society places barriers on people to succeed and we make excuses not to go back as we think it is too late. It’s never too late to pursue your education. It has been more than 20 years since my last formal schooling, but I had decades of life experience to draw on, which provided me with a strong foundation for academic success.
My master’s degree in Interior Architecture invigorated my love for the practice and encouraged me to strive for excellence for the rest of my life. I held a high GPA, I was on the Dean’s list every semester, and earned many awards that demonstrate my ability to design. Has it been challenging? Yes. Worthwhile? Yes! It helps that my personal standards are in sync with the university’s high bar. I am living proof that it is never too late to pursue your education.
What is your favorite memory of your time at FIU-IA?
Every day has been engraved in my memory. The opportunity to interact with a new generation of students, learn from them, and have them learn from you. That is invigorating. My favorite memories are the field trips, especially the study abroad program opportunity at Interior Architecture to visit the Bauhaus, Germany.
Did you have a favorite FIU-IA professor, mentor or class that really impacted your life or path?
If I talk about just one professor, it would be unfair. All the professors, in their own way, have and remained impactful in my life and career.
Janine King, my mentor, my advisor. The one that puts my feet on the ground and helps me resolve issues. She makes me understand when I am overwhelmed. She has impacted my life through her encouragement, passion, and leadership.
Katie Rothfield, her classes have impacted me by demonstrating how important it is to maintain and value personal and professional ethics. I value her ideas, and I very much enjoy her sarcasm, sense of humor, and friendship. She is a great human being.
Phillip Abbott, my soul mate. His candor and dedication inspire me every day. His passion for education is the reason why I want to have a positive impact on my students.
Newton D’Souza, my boss! I admire his leadership & patience. He affirmed my talents as a student and now as a professional.
Darci Pappano, I admire her positivism, sensitivity, and persistence. Every day she shows me how fun and exciting education can be.
You can call them “educators” because they care about their students and the profession.
What one piece of advice do you have current FIU-IA students? Or for students who will be graduating and entering “the real world” soon?
Graduation is not an ending. It’s not even really a beginning. In fact, it’s not helpful to think in these terms. Endings make you sad, beginnings make you scared and graduating from college might make you feel both. But, there is something really important one should remember:
Life is one, and there is always time for everything. There are no barriers, your future is in your hands. Act with dedication, discipline and pride, and always dignify your profession.
Tell me about your career and your current job. What does a “day in the life of you” look like and what is your greatest professional accomplishment?
In my opinion, teaching has always been a human activity. Not just in the sense that it takes humans to do it, but it is one of our most intimate relationships outside spousal and familial ones. I believe that the ideal professor-student relationship requires trust, mutual respect and inspiration. The professor-student relationship can not only change one’s way of looking at the world but also create a bond linking the past, present and future.
Unfortunately, during these times as we are living with this pandemic, we have to deal with this relationship in a different way. Without falling too far into nostalgia, I still believe that the mysterious power of professor-student interactions can’t truly be replaced by technology.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against technological advances. Ideally, a college education connects students to the past so they have a context for their lives, helps them make sense of their present circumstances, and orients them toward the future, not just with themselves but their social and world views. You can’t get that from ‘googling’ or learning online. It comes from humans passing their expertise, their energy and their faith in the future toward hopeful, passionate, younger generations who will eventually carry us all into that future. I believe that teaching and a complete education should be surrounded by complementary technology, be habitable, and still hold humanity dear to their hearts.
That is why I miss my school days and personal interaction with my students. There is nothing more satisfying than putting on my cap & gown and accompanying them on their graduation day. And then, I think that in some way I was part of their education and intellectual growth.
If you had to describe FIU-IA in three words/phrases, what would it be?
- High educational standards
- A multicultural and dynamic place
- Unique and creative environment