One thing Linsey Graff (MArch ’10) learned while studying interior design at the University of New Haven is that she did not want to be an interior designer. She thought there must be a more meaningful way to use her artistic skills than decorating rooms for prosperous clients. She considered becoming an art teacher, or perhaps an architect.
When the Niagara Falls, N.Y., native came back home to pursue a master’s degree in architecture and design at UB, she found herself in a position to do both through the Buffalo Architecture Foundation’s Architecture + Education (A+E) program. Established in 2007, A+E sends architecture students and professionals into the Buffalo Public Schools to enrich standard curricula with hands-on learning activities through the lens of architecture and design. For example, Graff, who has maintained her involvement with the program since graduating from UB, will help students design and build an 8-foot-tall Greek temple this spring as a way to learn about mathematical concepts along with Greek history and culture.
Getting involved with A+E, Graff believes, was one of the most important parts of her Buffalo education. “UB understands that you can’t do this job well when you don’t know what real people are like,” she explains. “They really encourage every student to get out into the community instead of just sitting in the bubble of the classroom.”
Her passion for community outreach and education won Graff, now 30, the 2014 American Institute of Architects New York State (AIANYS) Intern-Associate Award, and earned her the role of chairperson of the A+E program and vice president of the Buffalo Architecture Foundation. Graff has since helped raise enough money to extend programming to community centers on Buffalo’s East and West sides, and to offer architecture tours designed for children and families.
A self-described architectural activist, Graff also serves on the American Institute of Architects’ national diversity committee and frequently gives talks around Western New York about how the profession can attract more women, people of color and people with disabilities. Additionally, she holds a full-time position as an architectural planner with the University at Buffalo’s Capital Planning Group.
What’s perhaps most remarkable about Graff: She has yet to earn her architect’s license. “I still have seven exams to go,” she says. “Sometimes becoming an architect feels like its own full-time job, but it’s absolutely worth it.”
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