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Amanda Gatto’s design project reimagines a Detroit post office as a civic commons incorporating commercial and public spaces.Amanda Gatto’s design project reimagines a Detroit post office as a civic commons incorporating commercial and public spaces.

Grad making the most of opportunities

Now working toward a master’s degree in architecture at the University of Detroit Mercy, UWindsor grad Amanda Gatto looks back fondly on the research, experiential learning, and co-op opportunities she enjoyed as an undergrad in the Visual Arts and the Built Environment program.

“We had an opportunity to work on real community design projects,” she recalls. “The emphasis at both UW and UDM is on designing for people and developing environmentally sustainable design. We have a great studio culture of collaboration.”

Students in the VABE program take both studio-based and lecture-based courses. They split their time between the downtown SoCA campus and UDM’s School of Architecture.

Gatto qualified for the UWindsor’s Outstanding Scholars program, and she worked as a research assistant for professor and architect Veronika Mogyorody, conducting research on learning spaces that the pair presented in 2018 at the Education Developers Caucus at the University of Victoria, B.C.

She also spent two semesters in paid co-op internships, first with CS&P Architects Inc. — designers of the SoCA Armouries, Windsor Hall, and the current Lancer Sports and Recreation Complex — then with the Smith Group in Detroit.

“Smith Group is currently working on several projects for the University of Michigan,” she explains. “The group I’m working in works on window systems, siting the building to be energy efficient, and eliminate hot and cold areas.”

However, Gatto’s quest for opportunities weren’t limited to her required courses. She took several political science courses as electives, and professor Stephen Brooks invited her to join the the European Union Study Abroad Program. She spent three weeks in Belgium with a group of political science students, studying the European Union, and meeting with officials.

—Susan McKee