Alumni network at Gensler offers career advice to students, recent grads in time of uncertainty

Gensler screen from mentoring presentation.

Gensler associate and UB alumnus Jack Paruta ('92) leads a mentoring session held recently for students and recent graduates of UB's architecture program. 

by Rachel Teaman

Published October 6, 2020

Seven UB alumni practicing with Gensler offices across the U.S. recently came together with current students to share their career trajectories and work experience at the world’s largest architecture, design, and planning firm.

The Zoom session featured senior associates Jack Paruta (’92) and Eric Brill (BPS ’92), Bing Zeng (’91), design realization leader, and Jose Pesantez (’14), project architect, all working in the Greater New York City area; Ryan Glick (‘10), a project architect out of the Philadelphia office; Stefan Richter (‘02), practice area leader with Gensler’s Phoenix office; and Kevin Turner (’20), who just joined the firm’s Dallas office.

The Gensler and UB mentoring program is part of the School’s expanded career services offerings, developed in response to the economic disruption of the pandemic.

Elaine Chow, professional development coordinator, says the workshop builds critical connections for students during a challenging time. “With employment options limited and in-person interaction hindered by COVID-19, the ability to have ‘face-to-face’ conversations via Zoom is of tremendous benefit to the students. Many of the mentors remember starting out early in their careers and want to help students who are in similar situations now. We’re thankful for the guidance from the Gensler mentors and hope students take full advantage of this opportunity.”

Chow worked with Gensler Principal Madeline Burke-Vigeland, FAIA, chair of the School’s Dean’s Council, to organize the mentoring session. With future programs already in the works, Burke-Vigeland says Gensler is eager to work with architecture schools including UB to help students navigate the uncertainty of the moment.

“It is an important time to look ahead and make connections by sharing our experiences and engaging in dialogue with the current class of architects and planners. We hope to contribute to building a stronger and more diverse foundation for the future of the profession,” said Burke-Vigeland.

Eric Brill, a 1992 graduate of UB’s undergraduate architecture program, is an active mentor with Gensler with a particular motivation to give back to his alma mater: “For several years our Gensler New York office has hosted prospective UB students to hear from UB admissions staff and learn about the architecture profession from our UB alumni. I have proudly spoken about my formative UB experience as a student, my determination and grit to seek work through a recession in the early 1990s, and of my professional career while giving tours of our office. This new ‘virtual mentoring’ with UB architectural students enables me to continue to share my professional experiences and recommend ideas for the student’s development during the pandemic.”

Launched last spring, the School’s expanded career development office is led by Chow, serving architecture students, and Bart Roberts, associate director of research for the UB Regional Institute, who serves urban planning and real estate development students. Both Chow (BPS ’98) and Roberts (MUP ’07) are alumni of UB. Ed Brodka of UB Career Services serves as a career counselor for students across the School’s degree programs.

Serving both current students and recent graduates, the office organizes workshops and tutorials, provides one-on-one advising and counseling services, and facilitates internship and employment opportunities – including a series of digital internships over the summer. Past webinars have addressed licensure, portfolio development, and information sessions with practitioners on the state of the design, planning and development professions in the era of COVID-19. The program has reached more than 60 participants since April.

One-on-one mentoring is also provided by a core of alumni volunteers – now including the seven Gensler associates. Those interested in setting up an appointment can contact Chow at For more information on future workshops, advising and employment opportunities, visit the Career Services office