GHM Alumni Profile: Advice From an Aspiring Green Architect

To celebrate GreenHawks Media’s 10th anniversary in 2020, the site will continue to feature profiles of alumni staff writers that contributed to the publication’s content and mission during their time at Miami University. Our first September spotlight is Danny Nolan, a 2019 alum.

By: Sydney Rushing

In perfect 2020 fashion, I met Danny Nolan for the first time over a Zoom call. I asked questions from my off campus Oxford apartment, and he responded from his own apartment in Portland, Oregon, thousands of miles away and three time zones apart. Danny, a 2019 graduate of Miami, was a senior at the University when I was a freshman; although I never met him, I have heard many great things about him over the past few years. I was greeted with a big smile and energy, despite it being 8:30am Pacific time. When asked what three words his best friends would use to describe him, Danny responded without hesitation with “loud, social, and hardworking!” Like so many others, I left my conversation with Danny full of energy, inspired and grateful for a new friend.

Danny graduated from Miami in 2019 with a major in Architecture and a Co-major in Sustainability. He took as many sustainability studios that were offered in the architecture program that he could, which helped him to better integrate architecture with his co-major. “Miami has a really good IES (Institute for Environment and Sustainability) program,” Danny explained. During his senior year Danny took on a capstone project, which combined architecture and his co-major in sustainability in an interdisciplinary approach. Danny described how pleased he was that the two disciplines blended so well together. 

Well-known in Alumni Hall, the home of the architecture department, for his passion, drive, and dedication to his studies, Danny was a stand-out student. He described spending many late nights in the studio completing projects and bonding with friends. “I loved pulling all-nighters!” he exclaimed. Thinking back on his time at Miami, Danny attributed his positive experience and success to the people around him. “The faculty are so supportive and professors take time to help you learn… [my professors] played a huge part in helping prepare me.” 

Danny alongside some of his work. More samples pictured below.

During his senior year, Danny joined the GreenHawks Media staff and assumed the role of Social Media Marketing Director. Reflecting on his time in GreenHawks, Danny expressed his gratitude for the organization and the work it does to bring a wide variety of students on campus together. He believes that GHM’s ability to provide relevant, reliable and understandable information to students across various majors sets it apart from other environmental organizations on campus. “GreenHawks provides the link between reliable and sustainable information,” Danny explained. 

Currently, Danny is in his second and final year of graduate school at the University of Oregon, Portland, where he has the opportunity to continue his studies in both architecture and sustainability. Oregon’s graduate program provides him with a practical application of architecture and realistic engagement, something Danny valued very highly when applying to graduate schools. He described his professors at Oregon as “down to earth and practical,” which he said he really appreciated. 

Besides the great architecture program, Danny talked about the beauty of living on the West Coast and its stark differences from growing up in the Midwest. “There are so many trees, it’s absolutely beautiful… [there are] a lot of kombucha and oat milk drinkers.”

Danny also spoke about his passion for the environment and the responsibility people have to protect it. “Educating yourself is the first step. Learn about what is going on these days, be more mindful of that.” 

Beyond our individual responsibility, Danny talked about the necessity for large corporations to begin taking action, because that is where the real change is going to occur. “As individual consumers, people put so much pressure on us, but it is okay to compromise.”

Today, living a sustainable lifestyle can appear to be unattainable, as social media influencers often greenwash information. Sustainability has been molded into a marketable and trendy lifestyle that appears to only be accessible to wealthy individuals: this is far from the truth! Danny explained that living a sustainable lifestyle is often about making the best choices you can in any way you can. You do not have to be perfect!

For current Miami architecture students (like me!) looking to go to graduate school, Danny recommends applying to a wide variety of schools, claiming that “There’s a lot out there, so you want to have options.” 

He also wants to remind students that “there is no perfect grad school, it’s what you make of it.” Oftentimes, graduate schools have a broad curriculum in order to allow students to forge their own path based on their individual interests. Danny encourages students to tour the graduate schools they are thinking seriously about prior to committing. “Also, call the professors and reach out. They want to hear from you and why you are interested in going to their school!” 

Above all, Danny emphasized the importance of believing in yourself and channeling “your own self motivation.”

Looking back on his time as an undergraduate architecture student at Miami, Danny encourages students to take big risks and create bold work before being tied down by budgets and other ‘real world’ restrictions. “Have fun with it!”

A little bit more on Danny Nolan, Q&A

Q: You are a junior at Miami and just finished your studio project. You are exhausted and starving: where is your go to Uptown reward meal? 

A: SOHI. Chop salad, no bacon. Fries.

Q: What creative outlet do you fall back on when you are stressed?

A: Photoshop

Q: What do you miss most about Miami?

A: Friends from Miami and Alumni Hall.

All photos courtesy of Danny Nolan

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