Student Profiles


Zuri De Souza '14

Pune, India

Before Zuri’s arrival at College of the Atlantic, she hadn’t seen any photos of the campus or surrounding area.

I was actually shocked in the beginning. I had no idea what it would be like — I thought it would be a city! It was good to have four years away from urban spaces. Going home for my internship gave me perspective. Urban contexts have drawn me to my interest in architecture.

Zuri’s Advice to Students?
Take an active role in your education. Don’t take a course just because the course name is catchy. Talk to teachers about what you want out of your courses, go to Academic Affairs, and take things into your own hands. Realize the freedom you have do independent studies, travel, and don’t wait until your 3rd year to do it.

Learning at COA
Zuri realized COA was the right place for her after she completed a two-term internship at her home of Bombay. She focused on sociological aspects of urban design with guidance from Professor Isabel Mancinelli.

I had a personal connection to it. I realized I can take classes I have made for myself and teachers are willing to guide me. I am happy to do my work because it’s interesting to me. I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time.

Significance of Self-Direction
Self-direction means being able to do what I’m interested in. If you have an interest in something, you have to pursue it yourself. I explored installation for an Independent Study last term. Professor Dru Colbert helped me in developing my ideas. I put in a lot of effort. You have to be self-directed if you want to study architecture.

For her senior project Zuri spent five months in Europe and the Middle East exploring how to reclaim unused, abandoned spaces and empty land. The project will be documented in a book and a final credit will manifest in a public exhibition.

Self-sufficiency can be done within a city. Urban gardening is not so strange anymore, but an obvious solution. The exhibit will focus on possibilities for growing food, solutions for making gardens in your house, and landscaping and architecture at a micro level. It’s a lot of work but it has potential for me to learn a lot.

Things Gained
Learning to be alone. Realizing that being alone is not necessarily a bad thing, and you can step out of your comfort zone.

Zuri says Architecture studio,  Belonging, mobility and displacement, and Contemporary ritual: Dance beyond meaning are the courses that contributed most to her growth as a person.

The professors were so knowledgeable and open-minded to the direction of individual projects. They knew the difference between guiding someone and just giving them the answer.

The Role of Human Ecology
Zuri was exposed to Human Ecology by her parents before she was introduced to the term at COA.

Human Ecology has always been important to me. It is just a term for something that is so important to living a holistic life.

Examples of Zuri's work

Senior project reflections

"The intention of my senior project was to research ways in which urban pockets within the city are transformed from private into public spaces using nontraditional space-usage initiatives -- squats, urban gardens, street art collectives." Read more