Photo Credit: Arlene Kossman
For GSD graduates who decamp to opportunities in the far corners of the U.S. continent and beyond, leaving campus means exchanging a creative, collaborative environment for one that can feel disconnected from their network. The supportive camaraderie among students across design disciplines is a cornerstone of the GSD curriculum, and an element graduates often miss the most, especially when launching careers in unfamiliar cities. To fill that void, three recent graduates, Cameron Barradale (MAUD ’12), Aldo Burcheri (MLA ’12) and Julia Shuart (MLA ’07) – with the help of GSD Alumni Relations – are leading the charge in their home cities of Chicago and Los Angeles, seizing the opportunity to connect with other alums, create venues for networking and social opportunities, and build the supportive design environment that made their experience at the GSD so rich.
Earlier this summer, the inaugural Chicago event took place at Howells & Hood, a restaurant located at the base of the city’s iconic Tribune Tower and whose name pays homage to the building’s architects, John Howells and Raymond Hood. Organized by Barradale and Burcheri, the venue was a perfect setting for a group of 20 GSD alums and current students to gather. Barradale, who moved after graduating in 2012 to join the City Design Practice of Chicago firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), immediately started looking for alumni connections in the area, but found no organized network beyond his fellow alums at work. He and Burcheri set out to create one and connected a vibrant group of GSD grads across the architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, planning and policy disciplines.
Barradale describes the comradeship between GSD grads as “a meeting of the minds,” where regardless of their industry or discipline, everyone contributes a holistic and creative design perspective. He finds it particularly intriguing to meet grads who are applying their talents to other disciplines outside design and architecture. The initial gathering was such a success that in September, the group convened again to wrap up the summer and plan for an event-filled fall season. Barradale invites GSD alumni in the area – especially newly arrived grads – to contact him and get involved with their fellow GSD alums. And he promises that, unlike traditional business networking events, “It’s not all sweaty handshakes and awkward conversations – it’s very low-key and we have a great time together!” You can email him at Cameron.Barradale@som.com to get in touch and meet other GSD alumni who promise a hearty “Chicago welcome” to the area.
Photo Credit: Julia Schmidt Shuart
Over on the West Coast, graduates can connect with each other through social media on GSD West, a Facebook group to convene alums for business and social gatherings. The page was started by Julia Shuart after she moved back to her home base of Los Angeles to launch a career in landscape and urban design at AECOM Design + Planning. Shuart discovered an energetic community of grads in and around her city who were excited by the rapidly changing and vibrant urban setting, but who needed formal organization to stay in touch. As soon as GSD West launched, she quickly found that her fellow grads were eager for her to organize and post new events. In 2012, Shuart and fellow alums Colin Sieburgh (MArch '07), Stephen Billings (MLA '05) and Jason Kerwin (MArch '06), created a blog for the West Coast-based alumni group. The blog links to the original GSD West Facebook group and is intended as a forum for sharing design and professional news, in addition to social events.
Having joined the Alumni Council in 2009, Shuart hopes to play a formative role in not only framing the GSD’s future, but creating a more organized and influential community of alums across the country. Now, after starting her own firm, Julia Shuart Design where she focuses on high-end residential landscape architecture, she emphasizes that while young alums may not realize how important their involvement with the school is to its future, “even the smallest contribution, financial or otherwise, keeps you connected to the larger GSD community. The GSD can only get stronger if our alumni follow this philosophy.” Los Angeles-area grads can connect with Shuart through the GSD West blog at or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
GSD Alumni Relations is eager to hear from grads who would like to set up alumni chapters in their cities or get connected to existing groups (also: Boston/Cambridge, New York and San Francisco). Email Sarah Knight at email@example.com for more information.