My first boss told me that the reason he hired me had nothing to do with my portfolio. "Oh, it's not that it wasn't a good portfolio!" he assured me when I looked distressed by the suggestion that my body of work wasn't much of an asset. "I hired you because you were so poised during your interview."
The reason that I could come off as "poised" in that situation was because I had just graduated from a prestigious school with an incredibly rigorous curriculum: WashU. My professors had lived in the world that they were preparing me for. I got a really solid education. As I met other young artists trying to enter the advertising business, it was clear WashU had given me a leg up. I had more skills, a stronger work ethic, an internship on my resume, and a portfolio that demonstrated I was ready for the work.
You have all of that and more, no doubt. Take heart. Go forth with confidence, poise even. You have a leg up. These four years of very hard work have been worth it!
I can relate to where you are and your thoughts of uncertainty. Here are some of the adages that I hold dear to my psyche to keep my momentum going forward:
1) Necessity is the mother of invention.
2) When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
3) Think outside the box.
I lost a couple positions at firms due to recessions. My dad happened to be an inventor, so I helped him with an idea during a recession and, admittedly, was subsequently surprised to find my name on a U.S. patent. All I thought I had done was present my drawing to Dad's patent attorney.
Today, the son of my father's patent attorney is my patent attorney. My ideas are the practical result of working at projects, mostly adapting to my environment. One of my inventions came directly from remembering a STRUCTURES class discussion. Resultantly, 30 years later, a simple, revolutionary idea was sparked. Look around your space, details are begging for improvement. Believe in yourself. Good luck!
Liege, Wallonia, Belgium
Architect and Founding Partner, Baumans-Deffet Architecture & Urbanism
Dear future graduates,
Specific life circumstances brought me from Belgium to St. Louis in the mid 1980s. I graduated from WashU in 1985 (BA in Architecture). I then received my master's degree from MIT. Back to WashU in 1999 to receive the young alumni award. What a chance! I live, work, and teach in Liege, Belgium (French speaking).
My message to you would be:
- Be grateful. Graduating from such a fine institution is a real advantage in life.
- You have chosen one of the most beautiful, fantastic, challenging, difficult disciplines (architecture). It will be a lifetime investment, and it will take a while before you take hold of the privilege (and the responsibility) it generates. Do not worry. Architecture is a slow adventure.
- Please, never give up. Build!
- Be careful of the environment, and take good measure of the social impact of your spatial decisions.
- This global world needs to find a new balance. Cultivating multiple local conditions will be your challenge.
Best to all!
Bowling Green, Kentucky
CONGRATULATIONS on your achievements, especially in these challenging times. Be mindful of Dr. Martin Luther King's remarkable insight on adversity: "If not for the wind in our face, we would be unable to fly." I say, live your dreams and soar to the edge of your ambitions. You are our future. Be well and make us proud.
Neal Downing, AIA
Class of 1982
Potsdam, New York
Breathe, you got this. 2020 will be the year in which new leadership was born, and you will reimagine the world in exciting and innovative ways. WashU grads have done it before, and I know this upheaval will catapult you into an exciting future. It is your turn to be creative, be bold, and take up the challenge. I can't wait to see what you do next.
Breathe, you got this.
Partner, 1/1 Studio
Dear Class of 2020,
I can only imagine how disheartening it must be for you to have your final semester and graduation festivities so abruptly cut short in these unprecedented times. And I am sorry for your loss. Please take comfort in knowing that it always feels too soon to leave the Washington University community, regardless of circumstance.
Let me have the honor of being one of the first to welcome you to the community of architecture and the fine arts. You have earned a place in this community by virtue of your dedication and talent. I heartily and sincerely congratulate you.
Having graduated during a recession myself, I know the world can look dauntingly difficult right now. No doubt you will doubt yourself. But know that you have the talent and the education to succeed. Hold your beliefs steady in your heart and take action without fear of failing. This is but a brief moment in time. It just so happens it is your time. There is much to be done!
St. Louis, Missouri
Chairman and Principal, PGAV
To the class of 2020:
You are the future. That makes you very important to me, and to the world that will soon become yours to shape with your ideas, your talent, and your persistence.
And the world will shape you, too. You are starting out in unique circumstances, and I greatly regret that you will not have a graduation celebration nor the fortune of a robust job market. No one would blame you for being a bit discouraged.
But I predict that transcending discouragement will become one of your generations' superpowers. I believe that you will tackle creative challenges with greater determination and energy than we preceding generations. Perhaps most importantly, your creativity will be fueled by a higher sense of empathy for the challenges of others. I consider this last trait to be critical in any designer.
Stay close and encourage each other. If I can offer advice, reach out to me: linkedin.com/in/mike-konzen/
Be safe, healthy, and successful. We believe in you.
Owner, Leaf Design Associates
I graduated in 1980 from the School of Architecture (and again in 1983 with a master's degree) and was planning to attend our 40th reunion in April. I am so disappointed to not see WashU, as it would have been my first time in 30 years. So I can't imagine the disappointment all of you graduates are feeling, but I do have a few words of ADVICE:
1. Take chances with your life.
2. Take chances with your architecture career.
3. Be bold.
4. Work hard AND play hard.
5. Recognize the key moments in your life—"decision points"—if you can. These are the doors to new phases.
6. Find someone to love, a "partner" to share your life and make decisions with.
7. This is a crazy and surreal time not just for you, but for EVERYONE in the entire world, of any age, and experience in any country. As with all things, this, too, shall pass...
8. When you are on the other side of this experience, go give 'em hell!
Best to all!
Santa Barbara, California
Congratulations to the Class of 2020!
While these are turbulent times, may your creativity and passion long outlive this pandemic. You have been well prepared by the Washington University Family and represent excellence at all levels.
Best wishes and may you soar in the weeks and months ahead!
With admiration and accolades,
John P. Margolis, AIA
Los Angeles, California
Fine Artist, Designer, Architect
OK, so probably you are sensing that it won't be so easy for you. It was honestly already tricky to transfer from the grueling-but-exciting realm of school to the "work" world of architecture, but it is going to be harder for you. Yup. Jobs will be harder to come by, and there is so much general uncertainty. Recessions are lousy.
That said, you are prepared. You are creative, thoughtful, energetic, unbelievably hardworking, and adaptive problem-solvers. Washington University helped make you all that.
Try to be problem-seers. When you can spot something, you can name it, break it down, and find things to handle, to fix, to make better, to make fantastic. You won't be able to fix it all, so be patient. Be patient and kind with others. On kindness, some of you will have or find privilege in engaging work right away. For others of you, it will take longer. Don't boast, because it is obnoxious, and don't be envious, because it is toxic. Be there for each other, encourage each other. Go forth!
My heart goes out to all of you who have had your college experience cut short. Yet this unprecedented moment may help you truly cherish all of your amazing opportunities over the past years at WashU. In hindsight, I didn't fully value my time there and see what a privilege it was until long after I graduated. As you go forward, remember: Art creates change, art connects hearts, art heals!
Director, Operations, JLL
Graduation in the time of COVID19—what a mixed bag of emotions you must have!
It's a test of resiliency for both institutions and individuals, but I know you all are prepared.
Your work at the WashU School of Architecture has demonstrated your ability to deal with the vague, unknown, and even the unknowable, in many creative and thoughtful ways.
You are ready for the world, and it needs you now more than ever!
Congratulations! Go forth, do good work, and wash your hands.
Raleigh, North Carolina
President, Revware Inc.
Much of my time at WashU seems like a distant dream, but memories of studying architecture in Givens Hall remain sharp and invigorating. You are at a transitional time, in a course of study, with an association of friends and peers who are shaping your life more profoundly than any experience to come—or so that is how it was for me, viewing from 40 years out. And I cherish the memories. Facing the challenge confronting you today, I pray that you can say the same in the years to come. And I believe you will. I wish you the best for finishing your studies, for starting your careers, for building your families, for enjoying the adult lives unfolding before you.