For many, COVID has prevented participation in meaningful learning experiences. But not for architecture student Rosa Manzo. Rosa, who is currently enrolled in the University of Michigan’s Master of Architecture program, completed a virtual internship through the MAF + AIA Michigan Internship Bridge Program last summer.
The goal of the six-week program was to help bridge the gap in available student architectural internships in Michigan due to COVID-19, and preserve educational, work experience, and career-boosting opportunities normally provided through the traditional internship experience. Rosa was one of eight students from Michigan’s college and university architectural schools who participated in the program.
Rosa did her bridge internship with Ann Arbor-based architecture firm, T+E+A+M. The firm is led by principals who also are assistant professors of architecture at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Rosa initially met two of the principals as their student, and says the opportunity to work with them as an employee was her favorite part of her internship.
“The internship allowed us to relate differently and discuss design in ways that transcended our previous purely academic relationship,” said Rosa. “I also got a lot from my internship by working with professionals who are teachers at heart, and took time to explain everything and answer my questions.”
During the compacted internship, Rosa worked on one project, an affordable housing project in Detroit. “While I was getting real-world experience on an important project, I also learned how to research city codes, and to think holistically about how things like affordable housing developments relate to the context of their neighborhoods. Those things were covered briefly in my architecture school studio, but make more sense when you get to engage them as part of an actual project.”
Rosa enjoyed the flexibility of the virtual internship, where she could be productive without being confined to a typical 9 to 5 schedule. “Being remote was a little lonely, but we kept in touch daily using Zoom and Slack. And we had a virtual onboarding meeting, which made me feel more connected and that the entire team was committed to my success.”
While Rosa worked with all of T+E+A+M’s principals during her internship, she worked primarily with the firm’s female principals, Meredith Miller and Ellie Abrons. “In my previous internships (while earning her Bachelor of Science in Architecture from MIT), I never collaborated with female firm leaders. Since enrolling at Michigan, I’ve become aware of more females heading firms, teaching architecture and leading programs, and hope to follow their example.”
Rosa grew up in Victorville, a rural California town in the Mojave Desert, and has an interesting perspective on how architecture enriches life.
“In the desert, planning and design aren’t topics people talk about regularly. It wasn’t until I visited Spain and heard conversations about architecture’s importance, that I started to comprehend its power in influencing communities.”
She continues, “After growing up in the shadow of cities like Los Angeles and San Diego, I can tell you that in some small towns, architecture is seen as elitist. I want to change that thinking, and help people better understand how mindful design and planning positively impact lives, and plays an important role in education, healthcare, and how we live.”
“Everyone deserves good design and good planning, regardless of where they live or their socioeconomic status,” said Rosa.
“Architecture can help shape communities and unite people, and when used effectively, benefit the masses.”