You know the old saying: a picture is worth a thousand words. For Paolo Mendoza, a photo spoke to him so completely that it sparked him into action. “A few years ago, I was flipping through an architectural magazine and came upon a full-page photo that sent a chill through my body,” he recalls. “The article attached to the photo was about the global housing crisis. It made me think about my life and ultimately the lives of the unfortunate. The photo had such an impact on me because it was not a photo of the past, but a photo of what is happening in the present.”
From that moment, Mendoza knew he wanted to specialize in urban planning and design. “I want to be able to design sustainable communities and housing that will affect the lives of a large number of people,” he says. “Studying architecture provides me with a great foundation in critical thinking, designing, and planning different types of buildings with varying scopes that individually affects a bigger community.”
Mendoza sat down with The Box to talk about his journey.
What attracted you to NYIT?
I started my architecture education in the Philippines and immigrated to the United States before I was able to finish my degree. When I decided to continue my studies here, I knew that I wanted to be in New York City. NYIT offered the chance to study architecture in the heart of New York City in a competitive program. With its emphasis on creative risk-taking and collaboration, the program is really preparing me to manage responsibilities in the planning and design industry. Having the greatest number of licensed architects in New York State also is a big plus for NYIT. I believe that having a network that I can tap into will be a big help for my career development. With my NYIT degree, I will be better equipped to build sustainable urban settlements for those in need, and it provides me with a perfect foundation for my long-term goal to earn a Ph.D. in urban planning and policy.
In what other ways do you think an NYIT degree will benefit you?
When I got the opportunity to connect with not only NYIT students but also NYIT alumni, I knew that NYIT was the right place for me. Being part of that community [NYIT has more licensed architects in the state of New York than any other architecture program] and having access to that network will be a big help when I enter the workforce.
What activities are you currently involved in at NYIT?
I am a member of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), a non-profit student-run organization dedicated to providing unmatched progressive programs, information, and resources on issues critical to architecture. I got involved with the organization in my first year, and now I am serving as the 2018–2019 chapter president. I am also serving on the national level under the Council of Global Representatives.
Last year, I was a peer advisor for the NYIT Academic and Enrichment Center. I helped students with advisement preparation, schedule planning, and online registration. Over the summer, I advised new students and transfers prepare for placement exams.
I also had the opportunity to connect and work with Operation Resilient Living & Innovation Plus (ORLI+), an organization that fosters the development of resilience in communities vulnerable to environmental risk and disruption. ORLI+ started at NYIT and was founded by alumni. I worked with the group as a volunteer in their Philippine Resiliency Project ORLI+PH.
What would you tell a student thinking about coming to NYIT School of Architecture and Design?
The school gives you the chance to be in a vibrant community of critical thinkers and leaders in the architecture profession. It competitively ranks among the premier architecture schools in the country with multiple levels of student diversity and excellence, so it provides the platform to interact with “the best of the best” and to grow through a range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. The school also upholds a culture promoting a positive and respectful learning environment. With NYIT’s faculty, staff, and student organizations like AIAS, your path of becoming an architect will be worthwhile here.
This interview has been edited and condensed.