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High School Students Spend a Semester at DAS

September 08, 2023
Jasmin Tran, Ana Marya Queralta Pantoja, and Rita Mouping smiling in the Department of Architectural hallways

September marks the beginning of the school year for thousands of secondary school students across Ontario. For some students, especially those entering grade 12, returning to school means considering and applying for post-secondary education to further their studies, or perhaps, to practice an interest. 

Last winter, the Department of Architectural Science welcomed three high school students from Runnymede Collegiate Institute. The students, Jasmin Tran, Ana Marya Queralta Pantoja, and Rita Mouping, were all enrolled in Christine Sabetti’s Co-operative Education course. The Co-op program at the high school level requires students to seek out a placement in a field of interest for a semester. For Jasmin, Ana, and Rita, this interest was in architecture. 

Jasmin Tran, Ana Marya Queralta Pantoja, and Rita Mouping talking in a lecture hall

For Rita and Ana, architecture was all they've ever wanted to do, even as children. Jasmin, whose interest leans towards architectural engineering, said that architecture represents "a middle ground between the creative and the sciences."  

While the Co-op program is a mandatory requirement for all students enrolled in the Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program, Jasmin, who is enrolled in the Community Justice SHSM program, said that “I still would have taken it if it wasn’t mandatory. Co-op teaches you things that they would not teach you in class. It teaches you about getting into the real world and the professional field, while also giving you opportunities to gain certificates and experiences in the workplace.” 

Rita and Ana, who are enrolled in the Information and Computers Technology SHSM program, noted that they saw the Co-op program as an opportunity to explore their interest in architecture.

Initially, the students thought about entering an architecture firm as part of their placement. It was then at the suggestion of Christine Sabetti, their teacher, who proposed the Department of Architectural Science at Toronto Metropolitan University as an option. 

Jasmin Tran, Ana Marya Queralta Pantoja, and Rita Mouping speaking in the Department of Architectural Science office

“We owe a huge thanks to our teacher Ms. Sabetti, who found this placement for us. She worked one-on-one with each student to find something that was unique to them,” said Ana. 

“For us, we didn’t know a lot about universities and campuses, so going to an university for architecture seemed better for us than going to a firm. In the university, we’re not only learning about architecture, we’re learning about everything post-secondary, which is incredibly beneficial to us–especially since we didn't have family [members] who've gone through this experience before,” said Jasmin. 

When we spoke to Christine, she remarked that “as a Co-op teacher, with managing students in 30 different places, I’m always wondering: do the students have enough to do, is this meaningful, is this enriching?” 

Reflecting back on the placement, Christine thinks back to Ana, Rita, and Jasmin’s grade 9 and 10 academic years, where schooling was restricted to virtual lessons.

“These girls did not get a meaningful grade 9 or 10 experience. No field trips, no guest speakers, and so, what this placement really did for them, was really open their eyes to the admissions expectations. [...] They learned Rhino and Enscape, and then [were able to] put together those features in… where would they have had that exposure? That support?” 

Jasmin Tran, Ana Marya Queralta Pantoja, and Rita Mouping working on a design project in the lecture hall

From March to June, the students worked under the guidance of DAS staff and faculty members. Each of them worked on projects utilizing design softwares, participated in department-wide events such as the Year End Show, and spoke to upper year students about their experiences in one-on-one chats. 

We sat down with Rita, Ana, and Jasmin to ask them about their Co-op experience here at the department, where they spoke of their projects, the programs and skills they acquired, and what they took away from the placement, and hopefully will take with them as they begin to apply to post-secondary programs in architecture. 

What was the most memorable experience, this could be a class you sat in on, a project you participated in or a conversation, that you had at DAS? 

Rita: I would say the highlight of my Co-op experience was working in the workshop and seeing students coming in everyday and working on their own personal projects. Being able to shadow students as they worked on their projects in the workshop was very insightful. Seeing the work that went into the models and how it went from a sketch in their sketchbook, to being reviewed by the technicians, to being in Rhino, and then having it translated to wood and being constructed, was inspiring. 

Jasmin: It was the Year End Show for me. It was really nice to see all of us work together for something so big. We got to see the event executed and the mass success of it all, which made it feel like our work was really meaningful for our Co-op placement. 

Ana: For me, what stood out for the Co-op experience and the university experience was the reviews. Getting to sit in on them was very insightful to the whole process, which I would have otherwise not known of. Also, it seemed like a great opportunity for students to get critiqued by architects in the field that they want to get into. 

What will you take away from this Co-op experience? 

Jasmin: There’s a lot of the architectural mindset that goes into the work that I think I picked up on. For example, designing to not define a room with furniture, or the differences between architecture and exterior versus interior decorating. We got to learn what architecture itself is, which I think I didn’t know a lot of going into this Co-op placement. I thought of interior design and architecture as one, but I’ve now learned about them as separate industries. 

Ana: Something that I’ll take away is all the advice that Professor Hui provided us with. We got to work very closely with him, so he showed us things that we would’ve had to learn on our own, such as softwares, advice, concepts, and more.

Students at the workshop looking at tools

Under the guidance of Professor Vincent Hui, the students also worked on projects which allowed them to explore various softwares used by undergraduate students. First, the students utilized the programs to plan the second year studio spaces. Rita designed the desks, Ana designed the chairs, and Jasmin organized the shelves within the space. They then moved on to redesigning their own bedrooms. 

“We used Rhino to design our own bedrooms, and started learning Enscape to add more to make our dream room,” said Jasmin. 


Jasmin Tran, Ana Marya Queralta Pantoja, and Rita Mouping looking at architectural models on display
Is there anything about the program itself that surprised you? 

Rita: I was actually surprised to see that the student body was quite small here. [...] I imagined it as a bunch of people moving in and out all day, and there barely being any space for anyone, but it was very small and cozy. 

Ana: I’d have to agree with Rita. I found it surprising how everyone knew each other. Because usually when people talk about their experience, they talk about these big lecture halls, where you don’t know anybody and that it’s really hard to meet new people. But here, specifically in this program, when you work in studio, you get to be really close to people you work with and I found that really surprising.

Jasmin Tran, Ana Marya Queralta Pantoja, and Rita Mouping smiling in front of the Cloud structure on the entry stairs of the Architecture Building

Ana, Rita, and Jasmin want to thank Christine Sabetti for her support, Professor Hui for his guidance and advice, and the staff and students at DAS who welcomed them.