Building a Dream Career
Transferring to a new school can be difficult, but by the time Christopher Shagan arrived at New York Tech, he knew he was on the right path, making friends quickly and immersing himself in his studies. “If you are in a program, you will most likely be with the same students for the next four years, so it’s important to network and be prepared to work as a team,” he says. “And these are people who will likely be your friends for life.” Shagan talk to New York Tech News about what brought him to the university and his experience so far.
Tell us about yourself. What brought you to architecture?
I was born and raised in Staten Island, N.Y., the youngest of three. My mom is from the Philippines, and my dad is from Manhattan. Before he passed away in 2009, my father was a civil engineer and worked as a project manager at a construction firm in Queens, and I think that had an influence on me and my interest in how buildings are designed.
Looking back, I realize I always had an interest in architecture. When I was a kid, I would build Legos around my house, and I have played the game called “The Sims” since I was young (and I still play it to this day!). Growing up, I was also always very curious about how buildings were designed and made and what the thought process of the professionals involved. But my interest in architecture was not obvious to me at the time. When I was 18, I decided not to go to college because I was not sure what I wanted to do with my life. It took me some time to figure out what I liked and didn’t like, and I wanted to try different things. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to pursue architecture. However, before returning to school, I worked in an Italian restaurant/pizzeria, working my way up from delivery driver to host to a server and finally to a shift manager. I eventually departed from this job, moved to upstate NY (Albany) for school, and applied to work in a hospital in the radiology department. This was before the COVID-19 pandemic started, and I have worked in hospitals ever since. I currently work part-time as a patient transporter at a hospital while getting my degree.
How did you know New York Tech was the place for you?
When I chose to transfer to New York Tech, it was because it seemed like the best fit for me. I had done some research on architecture schools in and around New York City and New York state, and New York Tech was my top choice. The school was able to transfer the most credits from the classes I had taken, and I was offered a great scholarship.
Later, I attended an information session during the summer of 2021 about the architecture program led by [Associate Dean] Anthony Caradonna to learn more about it. I remember being very excited to start.
What do you love about the School of Architecture and Design?
What excites me most about New York Tech’s architecture school is the collaborative environment in our studio class. It is strictly project-based, so we work with each other and the professors to come up with ideas for projects throughout the semester. I love that each student is given the same project each semester, but by using our unique thought processes and creativity, we arrive at completely different ideas. It is an amazing environment in which to learn. I also love being in a room with like-minded people.
How are you extending your learning beyond the classroom?
I have my own architecture podcast called The Architecture Show. I speak about topics related to the field and have guests, including students, professors, designers, and YouTubers who are also architecture students/designers. I wanted to start the podcast to learn as much as I can about the field, and to share that with others.
I have also completed two internships and just finished a third. My first two were architecture internships, one in Valencia, Spain, and the other based out of Chicago. Both were remote and involved assisting in architectural drawings for clients, using software such as ArchiCAD and Photoshop. In my most recent internship, I worked as a CAD [computer-aided design] designer intern in a firm based in Jersey City, N.J., helping design floor plans for a finance company. At New York Tech, I am part of the American Institute of Architecture Students. It is a student-run organization that aims to promote excellence in architectural education, training, and practice. I am also a peer tutor, where I tutor students mostly in architecture classes, but I also help students in English, speech, and writing.
What are your career goals?
My goal is to become a licensed architect. New York Tech’s program teaches me ways to think creatively and differently to solve problems and become better at the software used within my field. New York Tech offers a five-year, accredited architecture program, and that kind of program helps you become a licensed architect quicker. Upon completion of the program, you can take the AREs (a required architect registration examination) immediately. They also help students find internship opportunities and get on-campus jobs.
This interview has been edited and condensed.