Mercedes E. Harris, Assoc. AIA: Member Profile

In May 2017, I was one of fifteen students to graduate from Oklahoma State University with a professional degree in architecture. Today, I am a long way from home as I work towards a Masters of Urban Design from the University of California, Berkeley. The events that led me to the East Bay, in hindsight, are straight forward enough.

After my third year, I received my first internship designing public schools at a firm in Dallas. The next summer I spent time in Wichita with a firm that specialized in healthcare facilities. Architecture was plan A up until that point – if I didn’t enjoy the field or I flunked out, there was no backup plan. That was until my last two years of school, when I began to read books and watch films about urban design. I took Oklahoma State’s final undergraduate studio, which delved deep into urban issues. I thought I had enjoyed architecture more than anything, but I soon realized I had been working at the wrong scale. Urban Design became my new passion.

Outside of studio, I enjoyed many opportunities on-campus and in the community. I was a Girl Scout troop leader for three and a half years, volunteered at many community events, working mainly with children, and ultimately completed five hundred hours of community service during my ungraduated career. My campus position as a Career Paraprofessional in the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology (CEAT) was to prepare other students to build their own careers. I’ve been trained in resume building, mock interviews, job search techniques, corresponding with professionals, etc. During my last three semesters, I worked with fellow architecture students to redevelop the student chapter of Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). I also worked with a group of five students to envision the Honors College Student Association (HCSA). When I passed the presidency along, HCSA had over 80 members and $1000 in group-raised funding. CSI, similarly, saw a tripled membership and $600 in group-raised funding.

Upon graduation, I briefly returned to Dallas to work for WRA Architects, the firm where I had my first internship opportunity. I still do contract work for them, writing a type of shorthand specifications. I look forward to my year at UC Berkeley and my time in the East Bay, as well as for whatever comes next.

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