Designing for Impact:
MAF Scholarship Winner Areej Shahin


University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning Master of Architecture student Areej Shahin’s interest in the built environment and how buildings and spaces shape our daily lives first started in high school. However, it wasn’t until her father, an engineer, showed her the impact that architecture can have on a community that she truly became inspired to pursue a career in architecture.

“My father’s passion for architecture was evident in the way that he would talk about his projects, describing the unique challenges and opportunities that each presented,” said Areej. “He would take me on tours of the buildings he played a role in, explaining the thought process and design decisions that went into each one. Through his stories, I began to see architecture as more than just the physical structures around us, but as a way to create meaningful spaces that improve people’s lives.”

She continues, “In addition, seeing the positive impact that architecture can have on a community made me realize that I wanted to be a part of creating spaces that make a difference in people’s lives. It also made me understand how architecture is not only a technical but also a social and humanitarian field.”

Areej is the 2022 winner of MAF’s Professional Concepts Insurance Agency (PCIA) Scholarship She was recognized by the MAF Scholarship Jury for her all-around excellence in academics, writing, and leadership, as well as her passion for the profession.

“In addition to helping me pay for my tuition, books, and other costs, the scholarship supported my educational and career goals by recognizing my talent and potential in the field of architecture,” said Areej. “It also provided the opportunity to network and advance my career, by creating possibilities for collaboration with organizations and companies in the industry, and positioning me for internships and job offers that will support a successful career in architecture.”

As part of their MAF scholarship application, students must include a personal statement describing their interest, experience and plans related to architecture, as well as information on their leadership and extracurricular activities. “I have always been highly motivated and excited to work with students and communities,” said Areej. “I have been teaching and mentoring since I was 18 years old in many different organizations. When I attended university in Malaysia, I taught English as a Second Language and drawing representation courses for incoming freshman students. I also volunteered with the UNHCR and Malaysian organizations to help Syrian refugees who immigrated to Malaysia after the war.”

Additionally, when she came to the United States in 2017, Areej worked at the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills. She also volunteered for a year with the Oakland Literacy Council, where she assisted students and immigrants from around the world in becoming more involved in their new communities while simultaneously improving their English skills.

“I am also currently in my third year working as a peer mentor at the Taubman School of Architecture, where I plan workshops and events, and coordinate study groups and other resources to increase academic success and support new students in their transition to the University.”

While Areej has experience designing residential, commercial/business, homes, and public safety projects, she is most excited to design healthcare facilities. “This entails understanding the particular requirements of healthcare environments and implementing elements that support the delivery of care,” she said.  “It also involves designing areas with features that facilitate comfort and healing, such as access to nature, natural light and views, and areas for socializing and relaxing; and designing accessible environments that take into account the requirements of older people, individuals with disabilities, and other vulnerable people. In order to get this experience, I’m working on submitting applications to healthcare design companies.”

Michigan Architectural Foundation’s mission is to advance awareness of how architecture enriches life. How does Areej think architecture enriches life? “Architecture plays an important role in shaping the built environment and influencing the daily experiences of individuals,” she said.  “It can enhance the aesthetic and functional qualities of a space, as well as contribute to the overall well-being and quality of life for those who use it.

“Good architecture can also create a sense of place and belonging, foster community, and promote physical and mental health. It can also support sustainable living and protect the environment. Furthermore, architecture can also be an art form that expresses cultural values, history, and identity, and can be a source of inspiration, pride, and civic engagement.”

She continues, “There are many reasons why I enjoy and love architecture, including its ability to shape the built environment and to make a positive impact on society. On a personal level, I also enjoy the challenge and constant learning, the creative process, the collaboration and teamwork, and of course, the variety of opportunities that being an architect presents.”

Photos include images of Areej and selections from Areej’s design portfolio