Best known for hosting Happy Hour at Meyerson Hall on Fridays throughout the Academic Year, Student Council is the elected body that works to strengthen social connections among students at the School of Design, across the University, and beyond. This year 24 students representing all of the departments and programs of PennDesign serve on the Student Council. Design Weekly asked the current co-presidents, John Dai (MArch’20) and Alex Shea Waga (MArch’20), and its vice president of communications, Emily Galfond (MCP’19), about their agenda.
What are the priorities of Student Council?
John Dai: We strive to provide a balanced, enjoyable and memorable experience to students of all majors at The University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design. Academically, we help bridge the students and the faculty, and represent any issues or needs students may have to the School, and help provide solutions. Student-life wise, we want to create a fun, social environment outside of classes by utilizing Happy Hour and other events, such as the T-shirt design competition, Halloween costume contest, the Beaux Arts Ball, and many more. Health and wellness are the main priority. We work closely with student affairs to bring mental health counseling, massage therapist, and yoga into our School. We are also planning a badminton tournament in the spring with the hope of engaging more people in physical activities!
Alex Shea Waga: The 24 of us act as liaisons between the student body and the faculty and administration, and we are currently trying to organize more meetings with administration to facilitate more communication throughout the school. We plan, very extensively, the happy hours and student life events to, hopefully, keep our peers less stressed and bring everyone together outside of our studies.
Emily Galfond: At times, it can seem like everyone is in their own little world, divided by the buildings we study in, and the different floors of Meyerson. When we come together, we quickly realize how similar we all are and how much we can benefit from the knowledge of each program at PennDesign.
What’s been a highlight of your experience at PennDesign?
John Dai: The Function of Fashion Architecture seminar [taught by Lecturer Danielle Willems] last spring. We designed and assembled a garment using technologies such as 3D printing and laser cutting. Along with six other pieces, our designs were exhibited at the Wharton Charity Fashion Show.
Alex Shea Waga: Meeting such great people. I have made many new close friends that I hope to stay in touch with. The student body is incredibly diverse, and it makes for such a fun environment. It has been a great experience going through such an intense field of study with my classmates.
Emily Galfond: Happy Hour. It's often perceived from the outside as an unnecessary expense for the School. The truth is that it makes a significant impact on the mental health of the students to be able to have a consistent weekly break from studies. It's something that we all look forward to, even if we just use it as a short break before going back to studio for the night.
How has your experience of graduate school changed the way you envision yourself as an architect or planner?
Emily Galfond: It’s greatly changed the way I view the intersection of planning and design. The program has opened my eyes to career paths I didn’t realize existed, and constantly challenges and changes what I feel most passionate about in the field. While I still don’t know what I want to do when I graduate, I am, for once, okay with that. I know that I’m equipped with the knowledge and skills for a future of countless possibilities, all of which I am eager to explore.
John Dai: My interest in architecture has to do with vertical city growth and housing solutions for the future. Graduate school, to me, is the necessary path to equip myself with the technical, theoretical, and even philosophical knowledge that will help me make this vision clear. The flexibility given in the course selections allows me to orient my studies around topics that I’m interested in, that support my planned thesis, and clarify what I’d like to achieve as an architect.
Alex Shea Waga : When I was in college, I more or less wanted to be the 9 to 5 architect, completing simple small-scale jobs in bulk. But, as I became immersed in different studios and placed in contact with a multitude of professors and peers, I realized the design field is endless. And with a Master’s in Architecture, there are so many industries our skills can be put towards, such as product design, film, and academia. I envision a role for myself within an interdisciplinary community, not just working as an architect with other architects, but collaborating and using the skills I have gained to be as versatile as possible.