Graduate Admissions

Sarai Williams


How did you find your current job?
I was notified by the Landscape Department that OLIN was seeking contract employees, so I applied and got an interview and later transitioned to a full-time position.

What kind of work are you doing?
OLIN is a fairly large Landscape Architecture firm based in Philadelphia that works on various types of projects at many scales from large single family residences, to campus master plans, to US Embassies, and basically everything in between. I'm currently working on a tech campus at the moment, just nearly having completed the construction documents phase of the project.

What attracted you to the firm or job?
I was eager to get a taste of the Landscape Architecture profession as it was one of my dual degrees and, honestly, a field in which I had less professional experience. Likewise, I admired the wealth of experience and knowledge that OLIN exhibited through the people that work here, some that I had the pleasure to have as instructors while at PennDesign.

How did your education at PennDesign prepare you for your current tasks?
I feel that the rigor within the landscape department prepared me for being able to approach a project with a multi-faceted perspective, and gave me the confidence to not be afraid of being wrong, realizing that design is always going to be an iterative process.

Are there specific courses and instructors that influenced you philosophically?
Jonathan Fogelson and Scott Page provided what I felt to be the most honest perspective of what happens in the day-to-day of many design professions, when working with communities, clients, governmental entities, and other externalities, while yet being able to produce substantive design solutions. It was very helpful to get that insightful dose of reality while operating within academia.

Any top moment(s) of your education here?
The interdisciplinary competitions! From ULI to the PennPraxis Social Impact Competition to the Penn Public Policy Competition - Participating in several of these were some of the best times I had and where I met some wonderfully intelligent people from not only several of the PennDesign departments, but also from the Integrated Product Design program and from the Fels Institute of Government, several of which I am still friends with to this day.

What’s next?
Only time will tell, but I would be interested in getting some lecturing or teaching experience under my belt in the near future, so hopefully something in that realm can materialize.

Are you keeping in touch with others from your class/the Penn community?
Yes, many of them. I also work with several former classmates at my current job, as well as have former instructors now as colleagues and mentors.

Any words of advice for prospective students?
As easy as it may be to stay within the walls of PennDesign, exploring the other opportunities (lectures, classes, organizations, jobs, entertainment venues) available on campus and in the larger Philadelphia community can be quite enriching - you will realize just how near you are to some amazing research, projects, and people.