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Global Learning By Design: The Business of Architecture

Posted on Wednesday, October 9th, 2019 at 6:18 pm.

By Katelynn Ziegler-Hall, Cultural Vistas
A version of this story was original published on Cultural Vistas Blog

Dalia Raad (left) Katelynn Ziegler-Hall (middle), and Shams Qais (right) at Gensler’s Washington, D.C. offices

A long-sought dream became reality for Dalia and Shams in September 2017 as they arrived in Washington, D.C. to begin their internships with Gensler a global design and architecture firm.

The 12-week internships were structured so Dalia and Shams would better understand the design profession and be exposed to experiences they wouldn’t normally have access to. This included learning new software like Revit and AutoCad. They took to it immediately and were excited to share it with their peers back home. In addition to technical skills, they gained confidence in their abilities as young architects and made impressive strides in their English language fluency.

Dalia and Shams traveled with the Gensler team to New York City for a site visit to see design under construction on a new building space.

Dalia and Shams traveled with the Gensler team to New York City for a site visit to see design under construction on a new building space.

“I learned to trust myself, set a goal, and see it through to completion,” said Shams. “This experience has made me more confident in myself and my abilities. I plan to use everything I learned here when I get back home.”
The cross-studio training approach exposed them to different projects, work styles, and team members. As a result, they learned the importance of teamwork and collaboration.

“In Iraq, architects mainly work alone on their specialized projects,” said Dalia. “At Gensler and in the U.S., there was collaboration across all levels of expertise. Everyone helps each other. Everyone learns together. The office was like a family.”

Dalia, Shams, and colleagues at as the International Interior Design Association’s Cosmo Couture DC fundraising fashion show

The learning and benefits extended to Gensler staff as well.

“Shams and Dalia were able to learn the business of architecture and were very active and involved in all aspects of our team here at Gensler,” said Zahraa. “They had a great willingness to learn and excel. Supervising them was more of a family effort, with so many architects working with them, teaching them new skills and perspectives, and learning from them just the same.”

This sentiment was shared by Sumita Arora, a studio director.

“It was a privilege having Shams and Dalia join our studio this fall,” said Sumita. “They gave us the unique opportunity to experience Iraq through their eyes. We were very impressed by their eagerness to learn, their technical savvy and their ability to become proficient in new platforms very quickly. They brought a wonderful can-do attitude.”

The talented young architects returned to Baghdad at the end of 2017 with sharpened design skills, a newfound confidence, and joint aspirations to start an architecture practice focused on rebuilding their country.

Categories: Participants, Program Spotlight

About Rebecca Pasini

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange

Rebecca Pasini

Rebecca A. Pasini joined the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchanges in July 2023. A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister - Counselor, Ms. Pasini has been an American diplomat since 1997.

Ms. Pasini previously served as the Director of Public and Congressional Affairs in the Bureau of Consular Affairs from 2021-2023. Other Washington assignments have included positions in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, the Office of Foreign Missions, and as a liaison to the Department of Homeland Security. She has also completed multiple overseas tours, including as Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs in Islamabad, Pakistan, and as the Consular Chief in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Belfast, Northern Ireland. Other tours included Mexico City and Kuwait.

A Maryland native, Ms. Pasini has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Indiana University, a master’s degree in National Security and Resource Strategy from the Eisenhower School, National Defense University, and an undergraduate degree from Mary Washington College.