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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 Nicole Elkon

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange

Nicole Elkon

Nicole Elkon joined the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange in September 2021. Until June 2021, Ms. Elkon was the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Human Rights First, an independent advocacy organization focused on human rights and the rule of law. Prior to her position as COO, Ms. Elkon was a Senior Advisor at Results for America (RFA), a non-profit organization focused on advancing data-driven, evidence based public policy at all levels of government. She also served as Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary of ECA and was Director of the Office of Public Private Partnerships at ECA working to leverage strategic partnerships to enhance Administration foreign policy priorities.

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