Leveling the Playing Field:
MAF Scholarship Winner
Madison Girolamo Advocates
for Good Design for All


In high school, architecture student Madison Girolamo’s art teachers also recognized her talent in math, and suggested she combine the two for a career in design. “I love that architecture is not just about the aesthetics, but also problem solving and logic,” Madison said. “It allows me to utilize both right- and left-brain functions.”

Madison, who was awarded MAF’s 2021 PCIA (Professional Concepts Insurance Agency) Scholarship, just completed her Bachelor of Science in Architecture at the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM). In addition to her outstanding academic achievements, her portfolio, and her volunteer activities (including her student NOMA and Student Alumni Leadership Council chapters), MAF’s scholarship jury noted Madison’s obvious passion for the profession in selecting her for the scholarship. This fall, she will start her Master’s in Architecture program at UDM.

“I appreciate that my architecture program is smaller, and has allowed me to get to know professors and fellow students,” said Madison. My professors and our Dean (Dan Pitera, FAIA) have been very supportive about helping students explore what they want from their career, and creating a path for getting them there.  They also work in the field and are socially conscious of architecture’s role in society, which has helped shape my interests and career plans.”

Madison currently is working at the Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC), a multidisciplinary nonprofit design center which works with neighborhood partners on high-quality community-engaged design projects throughout Detroit. DCDC is based in the University of Detroit Mercy’s School of Architecture.

“I’m really enjoying my work at DCDC, and it’s given me great insights into what the local community needs,” said Madison. “Ideally, I would like to design community spaces and schools. Both project types allow you to design for a wide range of people, but you still get to have some design creativity and freedom. I’m also interested in creating sustainably-designed projects in low income and marginalized communities.” Madison is currently working on her graduate thesis, around how architects can help prevent and reverse gentrification.

How does Madison think architecture enriches life? “One of the things I love about architecture is that its impact can be very personal. It serves as a backdrop to all of our experiences, even if you aren’t actively thinking about architecture’s role in them. And when you live or go to school in a well-designed place, you feel differently, more confident, happy, and well taken care of. Every person deserves that, regardless of socio-economic status.”

Madison continues, “If architecture can make you feel empowered to take positive steps you may have not otherwise considered, maybe it can even help level the playing field to a degree. It’s something I have been actively thinking about as I prepare my thesis.”

Find out more about MAF’s scholarship program.

Below: Images from Madison’s Fall 2020 Public Interest Design Studio project “The Eco-Ed Community Hub”, an adaptive reuse project using an existing building along Forest Avenue in Detroit’s Good Stock Neighborhood. The building and its landscape were designed to be highly sustainable and  flexible enough to accommodate ever-changing community needs.