2022-23 Watts Scholar aspires to advance justice through design in his native Iran

Pouya Pakkhesal presents his work during final reviews.

Pouya Pakkhesal, a third-year student in the BS in Architecture program, presents his work during final reviews.

Published May 23, 2023

UB architecture student Pouya Pakkhesal, a native of Iran, views design as a powerful force of change for justice and equity around the globe.

Dedication to ideals of justice

“The Watts Award is the first milestone of my career. It sets the tone for my study and practice of just and meaningful design for all. ”
Pouya Pakkhesal, 2022-23 Watts Scholar

“As designers and future architects, we hold a special role in the betterment of our generation's world. A world where we practice and uphold the values of equity and inclusion to celebrate our differences and create a just world for all.”

It is this dedication to the ideals of justice that made Pakkhesal, a third-year student in the BS in Architecture program, the ideal candidate for the 2022-23 Watts Scholar Award.

Putting ambition to work

The scholarship program for UB architecture is dedicated to students from underrepresented groups and is supported by Watts Architects & Engineers, a Black-owned firm with offices in Buffalo, Syracuse and New York City.

Pakkhesal says the scholarship has emboldened him to put his ambition to work. After graduation, the aspiring architect plans to return to Iran to engage his practice of design with the country’s movement for women’s rights and religious freedom.

“I aspire to help create this reality in my home country of Iran, a country where its people are prosecuted for who they are and the freedom they fight for. I hope to be ready for the day that I can contribute to the rebuilding of a beautiful nation that after decades of horror, can celebrate its many cultures and languages, respect believers of all faiths, and see freedom for its brave women.”

Supporting top-performing minority students

The Watts Scholar award continues a more than 15-year commitment by Watts Architects & Engineers to invest in students from historically marginalized populations at UB. The award includes a full-year tuition scholarship and is presented annually to top-performing architecture students from underrepresented communities.

Pakkhesal is also a student leader, directing the professional committee of UB’s chapter of Alpha Rho Chi, the national fraternity for students of architecture and the allied arts.

“It is exciting to see that our continued support of minority students at the UB Department of Architecture has contributed to multiple students’ attainment of a degree in architecture,” said Edward Watts Jr., president of Watts Architects & Engineers.

"The School is very fortunate to have the support from Watts Architects to continue our work on a more inclusive architectural profession. It is essential to have such connections with the practice community in Buffalo,” said Daniela Sandler, associate professor of architecture and the School’s associate dean for inclusive excellence. “And we are also grateful for the work and commitment from students such as Pouya. It is a joint effort!"

Elaine Chow, professional development coordinator for the Department of Architecture, agreed. “The continued relationship with Watts Architects & Engineers as a supporter of the School is a great example of how the profession can influence a student’s trajectory of success,” she said, adding that Watts Architects recently hosted a firm tour for UB’s chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students.

For Pouya, this is a first big step on a lifelong journey for justice:

“The Watts Award is the first milestone of my career. It sets the tone for my study and practice of just and meaningful design for all.”