A signature program of our 50+ Anniversary Celebration on April 6, 2022, the Sydney Gross Alumni Symposium will convene young alumni who are leading practice innovation across the fields of architecture, urban planning and real estate development. Join us in celebrating the boundary-pushing drive of our graduates.
Wednesday, April 6, 2022
1 pm - 5 pm
Project architect/Project manager, R.M Chin; Founder, Build a Bridge (BAB) Foundation
Native Syrian Ayla Abiad understands the challenges and complicated adjustment process facing immigrants and refugees entering the US. She established the Build a Bridge (BAB) Foundation to help ease that process.
The Build a Bridge Foundation is a non-profit/platform that connects refugee and new immigrant families with locals who can offer resources and support and assist them in becoming independent, informed, and contributing members of the community. BAB's goal is to make immigrants' transition to life in the US as seamless as possible while challenging communities' pre-conceived notions about refugees and immigrants.
Aside from her volunteer work, Ayla worked as an adjunct professor at Villa Maria College and began her architectural career at Wendel and AE7 where she worked for nine years. Her experience in the architectural design of healthcare and mixed-used facilities has enabled her to be a key member of a variety of successful projects in Western New York and Chicagoland.
Today, Ayla is Project Architect/Project Manager at R.M Chin in Chicago, where she works on projects including large, mixed-use developments, Healthcare Facilities, and Transportation. She is a leader in design and project management and actively engaged with clients and business development.
Ayla is a keynote speaker at several national and international platforms on how architects can change the storyline and use the power of design to erase preconceptions."
Creative director, [ELL]; Project architect, Smithgroup
F. Jason Campbell is also a lecturer at the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design, teaching core and advanced option studios in the undergraduate and graduate divisions.
His work, framed as a transdisciplinary practice, considers architecture, photography, installation design, and curatorial work. His projects range in scale, and leverage alternative methods of practice to address the incongruencies found between the spaces we co-opt and our daily performances.
Jason is the Creative Director of ELL, an Oakland-based design studio, working across media and discipline. Recent projects include the operation of ELLsf - a 5-year art initiative in San Francisco, forged at the intersection of architectural discourse and performance, collaborations with Perspecta50: Urban Divides, and Oakland-based Tajai Massey of Hieroglyphics. In tandem, Jason is an Associate with SmithGroup in the Higher Education Discipline. He has led programming and conceptual design phases for projects with Apple, City College of San Francisco, and San Francisco State University.
Prior to SmithGroup, Jason practiced with Bohlin Cywinski Jackson in San Francisco. He received an M.Arch from UC Berkeley College of Design and a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning.
UB made it very clear that we had agency in the built environment. Our ideas were not mere abstractions, and we were given the tools and confidence to realize them.
Artist, architect, tinkerer
Albert Chao is a licensed architect in New York State and directs atypicalpractice, which speculates on the conditions that shape the everyday. His research interrogates the typical: typical behavior, typical design, and typical methodologies.
He is specifically interested in the in/visibilities embedded within the labor of minor practices.
His collaborative work has been exhibited at the 2011 Detroit Design Festival, the 2012 Venice International Architecture Biennale, and at the 2019 IASS Symposium in Barcelona. He collaborated with a multidisciplinary team on Air Quality Egg, a citizen science initiative that explores visualizing the air we breathe. While in New York City, Albert also worked at PBDW Architects on projects that range from large, mixed-use developments to school and education projects.
Albert holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a dual Masters of Architecture and Fine Arts from the University at Buffalo. He is currently an adjunct instructor at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses. He is also a member of Dark Matter University, and is co-teaching a studio on Design Justice. Additionally, Albert has recently been appointed Regional Curator of Artpark. He will be working closely with the Global Curator in developing and establishing Artpark’s Visual and Public Arts strategy.
My UB experience fostered a curiosity and an interest in a wide and diverse array of explorations. I continually draw on these experiences to redefine and reshape my approach to practice.
Associate professor of urban affairs, Virginia Tech
Margaret (Maggie) Cowell, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Virginia Tech, where she teaches courses on economic development, urban economics, and public policy.
Dr. Cowell previously worked as a Regional Economist for the Buffalo Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and was also a member of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation-funded research project, “Building Resilient Regions.” She is currently a co-PI for Virginia Tech’s National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) program on Disaster Resilience and Risk Management. She is the author of Dealing with Deindustrialization: Adaptive Resilience in American Midwestern Regions (Routledge 2014) and has published numerous peer-reviewed articles focused on economic resilience, economic restructuring, and economic development.
Her most recent work examines entrepreneurs and small businesses in the neighborhoods most likely to be impacted by the Amazon HQ2 and Virginia Tech’s $1B Innovation Campus developments in Northern Virginia. She is also presently working on a co-edited book about the ties that bind Virginians across the urban-rural spectrum. Dr. Cowell’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Kauffman Foundation, National Association of Counties, and the United States Economic Development Administration.
She holds a Ph.D in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University, Master of Urban Planning from SUNY Buffalo, and B.A. in Urban Studies from Brown University.
My time at UB had a profound effect on my career path. This is the place where I discovered my desire to join academia and to focus my scholarship on issues of economic resilience. It has now been 16 years since I graduated, but I still research and write about Buffalo and I do so using the tools I first acquired while studying at UB.
Rana Abu Ghazaleh is a capital project manager at the City of Alexandria and former President of the International Planned Parenthood Federation's policy-making body, where she fought for social justice and equality for women.
A Fulbright Scholar and a 40 under 40 Honoree, she holds a MSc in Urban Planning from the University at Buffalo, specializing in community and international/economic development. Abu Ghazaleh’s understanding of the intricacies of urban forces, and passion for women and social complexities show how there are countless ways to follow a passion and utilize the urban planning skills and knowledge to serve the world. Aside from her volunteer work, Rana led various high visibility projects within the City, like the City’s Strategic Facility Plan, the Witter Wheeler Master Plan Project and the acceptance of SNAP (food stamps) Electronic Benefits Cards (EBT) at the Farmer’s Market and dollar matching program, which lead to her being featured as one of the “Fifty under 50 Innovative leaders transforming metro DC’s food system”. Rana is a published author and keynote speaker at several global platforms on international development and urban planning issues.
My experience at UB has taught me that urban planning is a multidisciplinary field that allows examining issues from a multitude of angles to reach the most suitable solution that fits the community needs and strives for its wellbeing, and hopefully, that of the whole world. UB allowed me to specialize in both community and international/economic development, thus allowing me to seamlessly move between the micro and the macro levels when examining a planning or a development issue.
Co-founder, Civic Eagle
Shawntera M. Hardy is an awardwinning policy professional and serial entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience leading work in areas including government affairs, healthcare access, economic development and international relations.
Shawntera’s current leadership work includes: founder of PolicyGrounds Consulting, a strategic management firm working at the intersection of public policy development, organizational effectiveness, and economic development; the cofounder and chief strategy officer for Civic Eagle, a tech company building policy intelligence software that automates state and federal legislative tracking; and the cofounder of Fearless Commerce, a publication and platform focused on elevating Black women business owners.
Prior to going full-time in her business ventures, Shawntera was appointed by Governor Mark Dayton as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) where she led a team of 1300 public servants and total annual budget of $1.6 billion and spearheaded the state’s investment in inclusive economic growth and operational excellence. Additional past leadership roles include: deputy chief of staff for Governor Dayton; policy director for FreshEnergy; government relations manager for HealthPartners; and city planner for the City of Saint Paul.
Shawntera has a strong commitment to community. She's currently a member of the Fairview Health Services -University of Minnesota board of trustees; Minnesota Public Radio board of trustees; Women Presidents Organization member; and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
To ensure access to educational opportunities, she co-founded and co-directs the Fatima Kinshasa Memorial Fund and the Pioneer Scholars Award, both at The Ohio State University. Born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, Shawntera holds a Bachelor of Science in Consumer Affairs from The Ohio State University, and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning from UB.
I left the School of Architecture and Planning with a deeper appreciation of the power of people in placemaking, both the seen and unseen. I work every day knowing that the future is for those that design the policies and processes that govern them.
Associate, Studio Daniel Libeskind
Since joining the Studio Libeskind in 2017, David Heaton has been involved in a wide range of projects including the Ngaren science museum in Kenya, Africa, and a large-scale office complex in Sydney.
Other major projects include a mixed-use complex in Bremen, Germany, and the National Pulse Memorial competition in Orlando. He is currently working on Maggie’s Centre in London and an international exhibition in Moscow.
Prior to joining the studio, David has won or placed in multiple architectural competitions and has designed and built several pavilions and interactive installations, including one for the UNESCO City of Light Festival in Jena, Germany. A recent pavilion, Inside, Outside & In-between, was designed, constructed and exhibited as part of the Seoul Biennale.
David earned his Bachelor’s of Science degree from the University at Buffalo graduating summa cum laude. He continued on at the university to receive his M.Arch and was awarded the King Student Medal for Best Thesis. He also received a Master’s of Science in Media Architecture from the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.
The design-build experiences along with the ability to work closely with faculty in and out of the classroom really helped shape the way I approach design problems. The spirit of making and the attitude of diving into problems head first and figuring out things by building them has really resonated with me since leaving the university setting.
Architect, WENDEL Companies; faculty member, UB Department of Architecture
Laura Schmitz Lubniewski brings expertise in high-performance, energy-efficient, sustainable and community-based design.
She holds a Bachelor of Science in Architecture ('11) from the University at Buffalo and a Master of Architecture ('15) from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Laura's passion for low-tech sustainable vernacular occupant-built housing led her to work at some non-traditional companies including Earthship Biotecture and Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. Her built prototype design was showcased at the National Tiny House Jamboree, a gathering of over 60,000 people in Colorado Springs (‘16).
As an educator she has been a guest workshop facilitator for Tiny Houses and the Future of Energy at the Global Student Leaders Summit in Reykjavik, Iceland ('16) and has held teaching positions at Boston Architectural College ('12), Massachusetts Institute of Technology ('14), and the University at Buffalo ('17, '19, '20, '21).
Laura is a Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC®) passionate about resilient, high-performance housing for the masses. She is an NCARB Certified practicing architect at Wendel Companies. She previously worked at eco_logic STUDIO in Buffalo she contributed to the West Side Homes multifamily housing project for PUSH Buffalo and the Solar Carousel Building at Canalside. She will begin working as a clinical assistant professor at UB in Fall 2022 in the Ecological Practices Graduate Research Group. She is the AIA Buffalo/WNY Emerging Professionals Committee Chair.
My experience at UB has taught me the importance of generous and ongoing empathetic and investigative listening when starting a project so that you can ask the right questions before proposing solutions.
Operations manager, UAP Company
Andrew Perkins obtained a Master of Architecture at the University at Buffalo, where he took interest in architecture and urbanism in moments of material scarcity, political tension, and natural calamity.
His thesis work, which involved purchasing and living in a derelict $800 house, sought opportunity in places others had dismissed or neglected. The project began by observing the breach between architectural practice and the actualities of the post-industrial city of Buffalo. Why is there homelessness in a city full of vacant buildings? Can and should ethics surmount legal restraints? How can the discards of a modern society mingle with the forgotten structures of a past era?
He’s continued to put particular energy into struggling cities: from the American Rustbelt to East Africa. In the process, he’s worked in public art production in Flint, Michigan’s most neglected neighborhoods; adaptive reuse of post-industrial buildings in Baltimore, Maryland; radically sustainable building design in Taos, New Mexico; and co-founding a design-build start-up in Nairobi, Kenya.
Integral to each movement were makers – from the self-taught to the college-educated – endlessly knowledgeable about their craft and communities. Andrew now works at a large art foundry, amongst some of those calloused hands which are too often left off the magazine covers.
I wasn't taught what to think at UB, but what questions to ask. With the critical thinking skills I gained - and some perseverance - I've been able to work across fields and bend the rules of architecture.
Senior Environment and 3D Technical Artist, COSM
Brandon Stone is a digital artist and designer who works at the intersection of many fields of design. His current work and research explores both the design and technical aspects of Video Game, AR/VR, Movie Production, and Exhibition design, Sports Broadcasting, and Museum Installations.
His current work explores how a familiar piece of technology, one that we all use every day, can be leveraged in new ways to create unique experiences. Utilizing a one of a kind 30m x 30m, 180 degree spherical 8k LED array, Brandon explores how audiences can engage with each other not only virtually, but physically and communaly as well. The experiences he creates can best be described as "Virtual Reality without the headset". The LED array occupies audience's entire field of view. This new canvas allows Brandon to consider not only how audiences experience and interact with the built space, but the virtual environment as well. In the year that Brandon has worked at COSM, he has created custom experiences for many companies/organizations including Epic Games, Disney/ILMxLabs, NBA, NFL, International Olympic Committee, Netflix, and AMC Theaters.
Prior to working at COSM, Brandon worked for four years as an Architectural Designer, focusing primarily on Healthcare and Higher Education. While working as an Architectural designer, Brandon was also responsible for creating new workflows that leveraged both static and dynamic rendering techniques, as well as VR experiences. Much of the tools and concepts required to create these new workflows have been self-taught outside of the office.
UB Architecture has equipped me with the tools, discipline, and rigor as a designer that enable me to create anything. The design principles learned while attending UB are not only applicable within the realm of architecture, but extend to all fields of design. I believe that architectural design produces some of the best and most well-rounded designers in the world.
Creative; Community director, The Morpholio Project
Joey Swerdlin (he/him) is in pursuit of architectural happiness and is currently obsessed with chairs.
After his time at Buffalo, he completed a Master of Architecture at MIT. He explores chairs at Sitting Alone and is a co-founder of Group Project, an architecture and urban design collaborative. He is also the Community Director of Morpholio where he focuses on marketing and social media strategy, UI/UX design, and community support.
The two words that come to mind when I think of the impact that Buffalo has had on my practice today is rigor and making. My mentors at UB inspired me to put passion behind everything that I work on and to never leave an idea in my head because of the process of translating a thought into physical form is an unexpected and delightful process.
This symposium is supported by the Sydney Gross Memorial Fund in honor of former UB architecture student Sydney Gross. Learn more
The 2022 Sydney Gross Symposium is organized by Joyce Hwang, UB associate professor of architecture, and Christopher Romano, UB assistant professor of architecture.