Nicholas Portrait

Nicholas is from San Diego, California. He's a full-time student and spends his weekends with the Air National Guard. One thing he likes most about ENVD is the opportunity to make connections with professionals.


Nick with his girlfriendWhere are you from?
I’m from San Diego, California

Why did you choose to come to CU Boulder?
The reason I chose to come to CU Boulder was that I didn’t know anyone from Colorado. Everyone has their own time frames in life and I believe that at a certain age you realize what you really want to do. You understand that even though you have a circle of great friends, you need to be surrounded by the people that are pushing you to be better or you need to remove yourself from everything that is distracting you from what you love and what you’re passionate about. You need to dive in head first, take a leap of faith and see if it works.

So, I moved from California to Colorado. I didn’t have a place to live at the time, so I lived in my Uhaul for a few days. I applied for school and I got accepted, found a place to live, got a job, joined the military and made it work and now it’s three and half years later.

What drew you to the Program in Environmental Design?
I did some research on architecture because it was kind of my passion and I didn’t know where I wanted to go at first. I understood that CU Denver had a program but it was more of an MA instead of a BA, so I thought “OK! I can’t do that, so where can I go?”

So, I started looking around at Front Range Community College and CU Boulder. At the time, I had visited CU Boulder and seen a lot of upper division student work. I got to meet a few faculty members and sit in on a few lectures. It just seemed really interesting, and the experience really drove me to understand that there are two spectrums of theory and form and ENVD was a mix of both.

What year of study are you in?
I’m in my third year and I’m in my praxis semester, which I’m really excited about. I’m specializing in landscape architecture, but I’m taking an architecture praxis, because the teacher, Marcel de Lange, is teaching us the business side of design. I want to be well-rounded on the design side, but also know how to order parts, materials and oversee general construction.

What is a Praxis? Nick's passport
A praxis is a way to experience what it’s actually like to be a professional in design. By doing a praxis semester you get to dabble and understand what it’s like to work on a project at a professional level.

It’s kind of a small mockup. You have a smaller, more limited time-frame but I feel that can be a positive and negative. Having a smaller time-frame allows you to work better as a team because people separate the jobs out, just like it would happen in a firm. Not everybody is going to be good at drafting, not everybody is going to be good at rendering; so it allows us to take on roles based on our skills. Each praxis class becomes its own tiny firm, because we’re working with ourselves, with our principals being our professors and people taking on specific roles as if they were professionals.

What do you like most about this major?
What I enjoy most, is the opportunity to make connections with professionals, especially my professors, because in the end I believe the more you have invested in someone, the more you’re going to give them. So, the more connected I am with my professors the more excited I am about meeting their expectations. They appreciate that I put a massive number of hours into my work. And, it feels great to have the opportunity to see my final work surprise them.

How do you stay involved on campus?
I’m going on my second semester of peer mentoring. It’s allowed me to understand what I lacked as a freshman and what I wanted to see from upperclassmen. I also work in the Digital Media Center, where I help with printing, 3D printing and Adobe software. I troubleshoot most of our digital platforms and assist students with any questions they have. I also get to advance my own skills along the way, because I have to learn the programs to be able to help others.

Praug Dancing HouseWhat do you like to do in your spare time, when you’re not on campus or in classes?
Travel! I'm in the military, so I get deployed and travel the world, kind of taking the opportunity to work hard and play hard. I believe that as long as I get good grades every year I should definitely reward myself, and I believe that the best way to reward yourself is by creating experiences, and not buying things. By getting a stamp on my passport I get to immerse myself in other cultures and other people’s way of life and, especially in our degree, I'm able to see different architecture from different countries. It’s kind of my go-to if I have the opportunity and money. I’d rather buy a plane ticket, leave for a week and come back with a great story to tell.

What branch of the military are you in?
I’m in the Air Force and I’m in the Air National Guard, so I’m kind of like a weekend warrior. I get to work two days a month, two weeks a year and get benefits for school tuition, health insurance etc…as well as opportunities to travel. Not to mention, I get to be a little kid and an adult at the same time. I’m a fuel specialist for F-16 planes, like a glorified gas mechanic, so that means I get to take apart giant jets. It’s like being a little kid again, but they’re really big “important” parts.

How does what you do in the military relate back to your major and vice versa?
I think that the military has been an avenue for exercising my obsession with detail. So, my attention to detail, which is a huge core value throughout the military in all branches, allows people to understand that when your professor says something that you should probably take note of it, because that attention to detail will make a big difference. I believe this has made me a better student and a better person.

What do you want to do when you graduate? Nick in Greece
It’s a huge debate for me at the moment. As my own toughest critic, I believe that no matter what, I can never be perfect or ready for a job, but I’d like to have all the answers that I can. I would like to, in the long run, have the opportunity to intern, as well as eventually open my own firm. I’ve made friends in this program that have I’ve been with for 3-4 years. I’ve grown with them, built houses with them and designed with them. The ultimate goal is to create our own firm and build our own houses and design our own things, but I’ll settle with interning and getting a good job at an architecture firm first.

What advice would you give to underclassmen and future students?
Do the readings. Drink a lot of coffee. Make friends, not in your classroom, but at two in the morning when you need another piece of drafting paper. You will notice that the people who stick around the longest, and put the most time in are going to be the best friends that you have, because they’ll always be willing to invest in you.