#MentorMonday: Teri Watson

Welcome to #MentorMonday! Mondays are dedicated to celebrating Black LICENSED Architects, Designers, and individuals in the profession of Architecture!

The questions asked to these individuals are to allow us into their lives and to be used as an inspiration. I hope you all enjoy this series.

Name: Teri Watson

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Educational Status:

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University; BS Arch, 2014
Florida International University; M. Arch, 2016

What/who sparked your interest in Architecture and when?

When I was in the 7th grade my history teacher told me I would be an Architect. Having that in the back of my head (and knowing I loved to draw), Architecture was one of the programs I chose when applying for college. Although it was my third program choice, I was placed in the Architecture program my freshman year. I didn’t know much about it but going into my sophomore year I was intrigued and fully invested in Architecture program.

What does it mean to be a black architect/ urban designer to you? Do you feel that you have more responsibility?

Being a black architect to me means a lot. I feel like I am apart of a unique 2% of people that represents the black communities and cultures in this profession. I do feel I have more responsibility and become more aware of it everyday. I’ve worked in numerous offices since graduating and can count on one hand how many black clients have walked into the office. I think that has to change. I think it is our job to educate our communities so they realize black architects/designers are accessible to them as well and should be utilized to rebuild our own communities, businesses and neighborhoods.

 

What are some obstacles you’ve experienced or currently experiencing as a black architect/ urban designer?

I think my biggest obstacle I’ve experienced was always being the first or only black hire a company has had. It’s a challenge getting your cultural experiences to shine in a firm that does not recognize your existence. Coming from an HBCU, it was a shock to feel excluded in a profession I studied hard for and grew to love. To change this, I became more expressive in meetings, brainstorming activities and the firm’s overall studio environment. This helped bring my existence as a black designer to the forefront and educate those in my shared working space.

Should we ignore race in this profession?

I do not think we should ignore race in the profession. Unfortunately architecture and numerous real estate developments impact our cities/neighborhoods directly. As an African American in this profession, I think it’s important that we recognize how we can shape those changes happening in our communities and surrounding areas. I believe this can also help bring race to the forefront of the architecture profession and how it is viewed. We cannot acknowledge gentrification without race therefore, we cannot ignore race in our profession.

If you could give advice to a black student in Architecture /Urban Planning school right now, what would it be?

Enjoy the freedom to be creative and make the most of your journey as a student. I believe every student should participate in different internship opportunities while attending school. It is important to try and figure out the path you want to take after graduating while you’re still in school. As a minority, you have to work extra hard to ensure you are taken seriously as a designer. Each student should network with other black professionals/ recent graduates in their area. Find a mentor to support you along your collegiate journey and help you with 3D programs, your portfolio, resume, etc.

Describe a moment you were at your lowest on your pursuit to licensure and how did you overcome it?

My lowest moment in my licensure journey was the beginning. I began testing when the new ARE 5.0 exam was released and it was very hard to figure out how to pass. Unfortunately, school doesn’t prepare you for the ARE exam so you have to be patient as you teach yourself the extensive content of what you will be tested on. After failing, I started to self evaluate, join forums, study harder and push myself past my comfort zone. Most importantly, I began to look at my path to licensure strictly as a learning experience to ensure I did not put constant pressure on myself for a “test”. Once I accomplished a realistic study schedule, figured out study techniques and kept a positive mindset towards the exams, I began passing. Understanding you are on your own path to licensure and not anyone else’s is the best way to overcome the ARE exam and focus on your path towards getting licensed.

How important is representation?

I believe representation is very important. I’m always shocked at people’s reaction when they hear I have a degree in Architecture and working in the field. People don’t realize that there are black professionals in this career which in return affects us as a whole. I think platforms like this one helps create a positive representation for us in this career.

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