Back to top

07.13.21 – Q&A: Recent Daniels grads remember their time at U of T, and share advice with new students

Three recent Daniels Faculty graduates from the Class of 2021 sat down with us to remember their time at university and share advice for new and current students. From memorable courses and favourite spots on campus, to critical first-year skills and advice for maintaining balance – read on for their responses.

Sheetza McGarry – Bachelor of Arts, Architectural Studies

sheetza mcgarry, architectural studies graduate

What is your favourite memory at U of T and the Daniels Faculty?   

I don't think I can pick just one. However, I would say the community in general. The friendships made at this faculty become your teammates, support network, and family away from home. The relationships formed with faculty members are so supportive and really opened my eyes to the possibilities of architecture and design beyond this academic stage.  

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when starting your program?   

Self-care and socializing are just as important as school. You need to find a balance. It's 10x harder to do your best work alone and when you're not taking care of yourself.  

What skills do you think first-year students should focus on developing?   

Getting used to synthesizing large readings will definitely help with the first-year reading requirements. It also never hurts to get a leg up on the Adobe Suite (specifically Illustrator and Photoshop), Rhino, and AutoCAD. However, most importantly I'd just say keep creating, find what gets you excited and explore it.  

What was your favourite course that you took at Daniels?  

Any of the design studios of course. I also loved Artist's Writings. It was a great way to read pieces from creatives that we learn about in theory classes. From reading their works and having critical discussions about them in class, I discovered a lot about my own practice and places I grappled with my identity within the art and architecture field. The projects that came out of this class are some that I hold closest to my heart, and have gone on to inform the way I approach my artistic practice whether that be visual arts, writing, or architecture and design.  

How do you maintain a good work/life balance?   

It's a constant process of reminding myself to take breaks and step back. Without it, it can get a bit too easy to lose perspective on your work and academics in general. Don't forget to be excited about things outside of school: a meal you're really interested in trying to cook, a park you want to read in, or a new cycling route. Also, surrounding yourself with people you mesh well with will make work/life balance seamless as you'll support one another and remind each other to have fun!  

What is your favourite spot on campus?  

​The Bamboo Garden in the Terrence Donnelly Centre! Brightens any rainy or snowy day.  

What tips for success do you have for first-year students at Daniels? 

Find people you work well with and have fun with and hold on to them. With so much change going on at this stage in life, you'll grow more than you can ever expect. Having a community to do that with is the best feeling as you enter adulthood! Your community will become your collaborators, critics, and of course friends. Finally, remember to take care of yourself and have fun - it'll go by quick so make the most of it!  

Juliette Cook – Master of Architecture

juliette cook, master of architecture graduate

What is your favourite memory at U of T and the Daniels Faculty?   

There are a few, but one of my favourite memory at Daniels comes from first year, when two of the people in my studio and I agreed we would never stay past 10pm. Fast forward to the weekend before the first deadline, we were in studio figuring out how to unroll surfaces and glue our models together, and stayed until about 2am. While we were tired and disappointed we didn’t abide by our ‘rule’, we sort of chuckled about it, and since we all lived in the East end, Ubered home together when we were done. Those two people have remained two of my closest friends throughout the program. You definitely bond during those late nights in studio! 

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when starting your program?   

It is never worth skipping a meal – always take that time away from your computer to nourish yourself and give your brain a break. 

  What skills do you think first-year students should focus on developing?   

I think it is important to ask for support in developing skills to design with climate change in mind; in other words, thinking about embodied and operational carbon. This may take the form of learning software skills (daylighting, energy intensity, carbon accounting, etc.) to learning about societal and environmental strategies for environmental management. One course that I think should be incorporated into first-year learning is Doug Anderson’s ‘Indigenous Perspectives on Landscapes.’

I also think it would be beneficial to have some small group exercises in studio, for example for doing precedent analysis, or even site analysis. Group work is an integral part of being in the field and practicing those skills in school will translate well to any workplace where you would work alongside a team (i.e. most workplaces!) Finally, students should be open-minded to experimenting with different techniques to find what helps to make their work legible and accessible to others. 

  What was your favourite course that you took at Daniels?  

Barring studio courses, my favourite is a toss up between Peter Sealy’s Berlin in Film summer course, and Tei Carpenter’s By Other Means seminar. From the content to the format of the class, I felt very inspired and motivated by these two. 

  How do you maintain a good work/life balance?   

I worked throughout my degree, outside of school as well as a TA in 2nd and 3rd year. While shuffling around the city commuting and also having to work made my schedule quite tight, both of these activities were a welcome break from thinking about schoolwork. It allowed me to take some space from studio and come back refreshed. I also would not compromise on working out / stretching, and even kept a lacrosse ball in my desk drawer to roll out my tired feet. Reserving time for a partner, friends, and family was key – though I wasn’t physically seeing many of these people over the course of the 3-year degree, regular calls during studio breaks or commutes home were good reminders that life goes on after school. 

 What is your favourite spot on campus?  

The PIT! Great spot to have lunch / take a break with a group of friends. I am not sure if everyone calls it the pit, but it is the auditorium space leading up to the grad studio. With COVID, Daniels Gathertown Edition was also a great place to be!   

  What tips for success do you have for first-year students at Daniels?   

My main tip would be figuring out a workflow that allows you to be efficient, while staying excited about what you are working on. If I felt like working on a perspective collage in Photoshop, even without having more technical drawings completed yet, I rolled with that feeling so that I had a rendered vision of my project that would keep me inspired. Starting tests on representation techniques early helped to confirm whether or not what I imagined in my brain would work out on paper! 

Rida Khan – Master of Urban Design

rida khan, master of urban design graduate

What is your favourite memory at U of T and the Daniels Faculty?   

It has to be during my online thesis presentation when so many of my past and current teachers all took time out to see my final work. I couldn’t stop smiling. I owe my growth as a designer to their guidance and patience and I am grateful to have created those relationships at Daniels. 

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when starting your program?   

Speak up and ask for help, you are not supposed to know everything.  

What skills do you think first-year students should focus on developing?  

Build your communication skills, understand your strengths, and acknowledge weaknesses you can build on. There are students and faculty who can help you inside and outside the classroom to build you up if you learn how to communicate well. 

What was your favourite course that you took at Daniels?  

Superstudio (the joint course between graduate students in Urban Design, Architecture, and Landscape Architecture). It was memorable. Good memories, bad memories. I felt hopeful and powerless at the same time – it was something!  

How do you maintain a good work/life balance?   

During my time at Daniels I had to constantly remind myself that I am in school to learn and not to prove something at the cost of my physical and mental health- we are intending to become designers not participate in Fear Factor. I made a rule for myself to not do all-nighters (I ended up doing a couple) and focus on the quality not quantity of the ideas I brought forward.  

What is your favourite spot on campus?  

The Daniels building is majestic, and I love to point out to friends that I am associated with it. The Graduate Studio where all the Urban Design, Architecture and Landscape Architecture students worked together is a space of student solidarity and potential. I also love that the Multifaith Centre is just steps away for those moments when you just needed to get away, reflect, or pray.  

What tips for success do you have for first-year students at Daniels?   

Soak in where you are: a top design school in one of North America’s fastest-growing cities surrounded by the best teachers. I encourage students to learn from their instructors and proactively engage in opportunities to uplift your colleagues and communities outside of coursework.