BSA Fuels Its Mission On Equity, One Internship at a Time
The BSA’s support of the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC) summer internship program began several years ago and has grown slowly over time. The six-week-long program is the culmination point of what is a full-year venture with PIC, a nonprofit that connects Boston residents with careers through its various initiatives and programs. The BSA is committed to the internship program because it is designed to give students who otherwise might not even know about careers in architecture the opportunity to learn about and experience “a day in the life of an architect.” Firms that have hosted in the past are doing so again this year with itineraries for the interns that include even more experiential opportunities than before. This article provides a peek into the program from the perspectives of one former intern and a firm associate who oversees the program in her firm.
Partnering with PIC, the BSA acts as a liaison between PIC and local Boston architecture firms in developing opportunities that expose Boston high school students to careers in design. One of PIC’s initiatives is organizing employers to participate in the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program, and that’s where the BSA comes in.
Immersion into Architecture
Currently, there are seven Boston architecture firms that host summer internship programs (Bergmeyer, Elkus Manfredi, Finegold Alexander Architects, Goody Clancy, HMFH Architects, Leer Weinzapfel Associates, and Payette). For four days each week, students work at their respective firms. On Fridays, interns work together in a cohort engaging with firms in different ways, such as project site tours or a firm office “crawl.”
Alejandrina Estrada, who interned at Bergmeyer following her junior and senior years of high school, describes the flow of the internship: “Every Monday, Virginia [who was also interning at Bergmeyer] and I would meet with a different architect or interior designer and be given a project or specific task to do, and work on it for the rest of the week until Thursday. That day, we’d present to the architect or interior designer who gave us the task along with others working at the firm,” she describes.
For one of the firm’s projects, Estrada and her fellow intern had the opportunity to present their thoughts on how to organize a space they had been assigned. “It was a small room, which was really interesting because when you picture architecture, you think you’re going to work on a big building or this really beautiful piece; you’re not thinking, ‘What if I have a space that is only 10 by 10? What do I put in there that’s organized and spacious so people can move in and out of easily?’ That was really cool.”
At Bergmeyer, students are also taught how to use helpful tools (e.g., SketchUp and Miro) and this summer will be introduced to different specialists throughout the design process, such as a sustainability expert talking through materials and a project team explaining how to work with clients and get a proposal built.
This summer marks the third year Payette will be hosting a summer intern. Emily Miyares AIA, an associate at Payette, says interns at Payette are offered two mini courses: Skills and Design Discovery. “The Skills course focuses on drawing, modeling, and diagramming, and Design Discovery is similar to an architecture studio project,” Miyares says. “The two courses are designed to move in tandem, with the Skills workshop informing what is talked about in the design studio and vice versa,” she says. The other element of the internship is called Office Outreach, where different staff members take the interns out to lunch, get to know them, and take them on site visits. “We try to get interns involved in a whole bunch of things in the office besides just the people they’re interacting with,” Miyares says.
Summer Fridays are a way for students to interact beyond the internship. This year, the BSA will be collaborating with three other architecture/design education–focused organizations that are hosting students this summer: the Sasaki Foundation, the Designery, and ACE Mentors. “This year’s more robust program aims to bridge the gap between architecture and design and the different scales it touches,” says Taylor Johnson, design education and public initiatives manager at the BSA. On four of the six Friday mornings, students will join with the Sasaki Foundation’s Summer Exploratory Experience in Design program to meet an urban planner who will situate them in a local neighborhood where they will visit two to three sites. Students will visit neighborhoods across the city, including Somerville, Downtown Boston, Roxbury, Chinatown to the North End, and the Greenway. Sites will include buildings, parks, plazas, and streetscapes, where interns see design disciplines at different scales, highlighting architecture, urban planning/design, and arts and placemaking.
On one of the other Fridays, interns visit firms as part of a “firm crawl” to see how different offices operate. On the final Friday, the BSA hosts a lunch and the End of Summer Share Out, during which firms, firm principals, interns, and managers hear from the interns about their project work and what they found most valuable about the program.
“The goal is to advocate for public school students and for the growth of these types of programs so students have a place to explore their interests and potential professions, and have a foundation to build from after graduation,” says Johnson.
Influencing College and Career Decisions
Speaking of college, Estrada has just completed her freshman year at Wentworth Institute of Technology. She says the internship had a profound impact on her college and career plans. These plans were influenced by conversations she had with Bergmeyer’s staff (hearing about their high school and college experiences) and “seeing them in action, talking to their clients, even going to construction sites and seeing it all come to life… I think that was a pretty amazing moment for me and just made me want to go into this field even more.”
For more information about the BSA’s summer internship program, contact Taylor Johnson at [email protected].