Historic Preservation

Posted September 29, 2021
  • Ali Cavicchio (MSHP '22, left) and Ying Wang (MSHP '23, right) will update the Program's blog with news from students, faculty, alumni, events, site visits, and more.


Meet Historic Preservation's New Communications Assistants

The Graduate Program in Historic Preservation would like to introduce the new Student Communications Assistants, Ali Cavicchio (MSHP '22) and Ying Wang (MSPH '23). By way of introduction, the pair have sat down to answer a few questions on their backgrounds, student life at Penn, and plans for the future.

Ali Cavicchio

What led you to Weitzman? Why Historic Preservation?

My professional interest in historic preservation took shape when I started working for the Aga Khan Foundation, and with their sister organization the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC). In 2017, I was fortunate enough to have the chance to visit AKTC’s work in Lahore, Pakistan. During my time there I was thrilled by the incredible work AKTC was carrying out in the Walled City of Lahore, including the Wazir Khan Mosque and the Lahore Fort Picture Wall. This visit to Lahore was my big aha moment.  When I returned to the U.S. I enrolled in a preservation class at Virginia Tech to get my feet wet, and I also volunteered for Old Town Alexandria, Virginia’s Architectural Survey. Both the course and the survey helped me realize that I am passionate about preservation whether the site is halfway across the world, or in my own backyard.

What attracted you to the Penn program?
I had heard about Penn Preservation from colleagues and when I started to look into graduate programs it was at the top of my list. I was excited about the individual conservation classes dedicated to masonry, finishes, and wood. I talked with Professors Randy Mason and Frank Matero, current students, and some recent alums when I was applying and hearing their perspectives about the program and getting a sense of the Penn community really sealed the deal for me.

Where did you intern this summer? How did your studies in your first year prepare you for your work there?
This summer I worked as a Research Fellow for the Center for Architectural Conservation (CAC) at Pecos National Historical Park in New Mexico, and at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. The techniques I learned and knowledge I gained during my first year of classes, including Building Pathology, Conservation Science, Digital Media, Documentation and Recording, and Theories, were critical for both of my internships.

What has been your favorite class so far?
Pamela Hawkes’ class Contemporary Design in Historic Settings. I don’t have a design background and her class challenged me to think like a designer and helped me to understand how drawing/visuals can be just as or more powerful than communicating through writing. It really changed the way I look at buildings and sites. I use the concepts and language I learned in that class all the time--professionally at Pecos this summer, or just walking down the street in Philly.

Where do you see yourself after graduation?

I could see myself working as a project manager for an international NGO focused on conservation and site management. After spending time in New Mexico this summer, I could also see myself working on historic adobe structures in the American Southwest. I’m excited to see what opportunities arise next year!

Any words of advice for prospective students?

Reach out to professors and current students in programs you are interested in. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be explicit about your interests to be sure the program you end up in is the best fit for you.

Ying Wang

What led you to Weitzman? Why Historic Preservation?

From my point of view, the Weitzman School of Design is a great platform to learn and practice from an international perspective. As an international student, I am looking forward to experiencing multiple cultures and a diverse education system, and I believe Weitzman is the perfect place to achieve those. Historic buildings and heritage are always my interests. Historic preservation is a pragmatic field of history, art, and other relevant disciplines, which helps me improve myself academically and practically.

What are your first impressions of the Historic Preservation community?

It is an inclusive and dynamic community consisting of experienced professors, devoted students, and an organized department. Everyone shows their different personalities and interests, but we all have a common idea about promoting the historic preservation field to a better place. It is a big warm family where I will have a lot of fun and gain a lot of experience in the next two years.

What is your favorite class so far this semester?

So far, my favorite class is HSPV 660 Theory of Historic Preservation with Professor Randy Mason. It is a core course of the first-year curriculum. The engaging part of this class is reading preservation theory from a historical and interdisciplinary perspective and then conducting critical thinking about current events based on theory. The group discussions in class are also inspiring and influential. This class helps students build a basis of cognitive and perspective, which is significant to work in the practical field.

What are you looking forward to most this year?
I will go on the field trip to Fort Union next week with HSPV 747: Archaeological Conservation, taught by Frank Matero and Clark Erickson. I am so excited about it. It is the first time that I will work with my classmates and teachers on an archaeological site. I am also looking forward to exploring Philadelphia from cultural festivals, historic districts, local culture, and so on. I also expect to make new friends and develop new hobbies.

Where do you see yourself after graduation?
After graduation, I will focus on pursuing a professional career. I will apply the skills and theories learned graduate school to real projects. I may work as an architectural conservator in conservation companies for practice or continuing study in the academic field.

Any words of advice for prospective students?

If you are interested in historic preservation, don’t hesitate to join this program. And when you get there, you will know all former dedications are totally worth it. Stay positive and active, ask questions, make mistakes and acquire valuable experiences. Use resources and explore your interests; look for subjects that suit you. Try to practice more to prepare for a professional future.