Hometown: Aurora, Colorado
Undergraduate School and Major: Bachelor of Science in Architecture, 2021
In our Student Q+A’s we profile the students of the University of Colorado Denver’s College of Architecture & Planning (CAP). We sat down with Jada Cannon, one of the CAP’s 2021 Outstanding Graduates, to learn more about her background, what attracted her to the CAP, her breakthrough moments during her education, and her plans post-graduation.
Tell us a little bit about why you chose the CAP and what your experience has been like?
Coming to CU Denver was never in my “five-year plan”, but I can say it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. After two years of undergraduate studies, I transferred from a school in Brooklyn, NY, where I was also pursuing an architecture degree. The architecture program at the CAP was clearly the best in Colorado, and I eagerly enrolled to be closer to my family. The second I set foot in my first studio course, it felt like a breath of fresh air. My previous experience, while rewarding, had been steeped in elitism and classism, and I felt nothing of the sort at CU Denver. I was delighted to encounter people who knew what it was like to balance work and school while still being extremely passionate about architecture. I quickly met some of the kindest, most genuine, hard-working people I had ever met. As a transfer student, it would have been easy to feel left out and lost in a sea of new experiences. Students at the CAP made sure I never felt excluded. Since my first day on campus, I have been inspired and encouraged by my peers and professors. I could not have asked for a better undergraduate experience.
Did you have any breakthrough moments during your education experience? If so, what were they and when did they happen?
I think my most significant breakthrough moment was my first group studio project. It was during Studio IV in the fall of 2020. I have always been the kind of person who preferred to work alone. I feel my workflow is efficient, and it operates most efficiently when I don’t have to discuss every decision as I go. I was very hesitant about working with a group, but I found that the experience made me a better student and hopefully, a better architect. I was lucky to be part of a fantastic group with Alexis Smith and Shereen Al-Mater, and we worked together under an incredible professor, Katie Donahue. Our project touched on many of the ideas that I feel are important to consider in the built environment, and we fleshed them out in a way that I don’t think I could have entirely conceived on my own. The experience eradicated my uncertainty for group projects, and instead, I saw my peers for the incredible assets they are. Studio culture teaches you that your fellow students are there to help you, and working together on a project’s life-cycle brings it to a new level.
How have you grown since coming to the CAP?
One of my favorite things about CU Denver is that it allows and encourages students to maintain a healthy school/life balance. I’ve been able to make time to learn more programs, pursue scholarships, and effectively search for career opportunities. The CAP not only allowed me the time to engage with my interests adjacent to school but also provided me with the resources to be successful. Revit and Grasshopper introduced me to programs that I had always wanted to learn and effectively taught me how to explore them in-depth on my own. The scholarship portal helped me find scholarships within my program and instilled the discipline to hunt down scholarships for graduate school. Rachel Brown and the career office support students to find internships, and help refine portfolios and resumes. I feel like I’m leaving the CAP as a much more well-rounded student and person than when I entered.
One of my favorite things about CU Denver is that it allows and encourages students to maintain a healthy school/life balance.
What does life after CAP look like for you?
In the fall of 2021, I will be attending Cornell University to earn my Master’s degree in Architecture. I hope to continue to participate in NOMAS, and I plan to obtain my architecture license after graduate school.
What opportunities at the CAP are there for students to connect their designs to real-world issues?
I think every design studio (at least after studio II) provides an opportunity to engage with real-world problems. As soon as students are given the opportunity to design an actual site around the Denver area, we can start to address real-world issues. Site visits are integral to the studio experience, and it’s often the preliminary step in the design process. The second we place our projects in the real world, we are forced to reconcile with the problems inherent to placemaking. I have addressed environmental preservation, historic redlining, and community engagement in my projects. In addition to this, the design-build program is an excellent opportunity to connect designs to real-world issues and create solutions. Every student I know who has participated in design-build has found that it deeply enhanced their skills as designers and collaborators.
Jada is the type of student who exudes thoughtfulness, compassion, and dedication. She unites others without even trying, and her work is always filled with passion and curiosity.
Katie Donahue, AIA, NCARB, LEED GA, University of Colorado Denver CAP Lecturer
Do you plan to continue to be a part of the CAP community? If so, how?
I hope to contribute to the CAP’s JEDI scholarship fund in the future. Being awarded the JEDI scholarship genuinely changed my life, and I hope to pass that on to another deserving student.