On April 12, 2019, during a celebration at the Frances Loeb Library, the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) Alumni Council honored three current students—Chantine Akiyama MArch ’19, Sidra Fatima MUP ’19, and Natalie Wang MDes ’19—with the 2019 Unsung Hero Book Prize.
Now in its thirteenth year, the prize celebrates GSD students who act in selfless ways to make the School a better place. Deserving students are nominated each spring by fellow GSD students, faculty, and staff, and winners are selected by the Alumni Council. The winners are presented with a book of their selection by the Council, and a second copy is donated to the Loeb Library with a bookplate commemorating the award.
Chantine’s book selection was Architecture, Culture, and Spirituality by Thomas Barrie and Julio Bermudez. A Los Angeles native in the final year of her Master in Architecture I degree, Chantine also holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from MIT. She chose to become an architect because of its avenues for artistic expression, and she seeks to curate the aura of spaces to bring joy and wonder to those who inhabit it. One nominator said of Chantine: “She surpassed my perception of ‘leadership’—she does not take advantage of her position, but quietly fulfills her responsibilities with genuine love, care, and integrity. After knowing her, I feel more calm, rooted, and welcomed in the community.”
Sidra selected Resilience, Environmental Justice and the City by Beth Schaefer Caniglia. From southern California, Sidra is in the final year of the Master in Urban Planning program concentrating in environmental planning and community and neighborhood development, with a focus on climate change adaptation. She earned her bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, with a minor in geographic information systems. A nominator said of Sidra: “I don’t think I would feel as at home at the GSD if it wasn’t for Sidra. She encourages you to imagine; she encourages you to feel at home with your questions and unknowns. I leave every conversation with Sidra with some fire, feeling like the impossible is just a bit more possible.”
Natalie’s book selection was Sun Path House and Other Cosmic Architectures by Christian Wassmann and Hendrik Schwantes. Born in Vancouver, Canada, to a Chilean mother and Taiwanese father, Natalie spent her childhood in Chile and Vancouver’s Musqueam Native Reservation. She pursued her undergraduate education at Parsons The New School For Design, where she received a bachelor’s degree in strategic design and management. At the GSD, she in the final year of her Master in Design Studies degree with a concentration in Risk and Resilience. One nominator said of Natalie: “She still is the person around Gund that I point to as a person everyone knows because she doesn’t fail to say hi to anyone she has met, even just once. If we talk about engaging in community, advancing design in leadership, and contributing to the daily life at the GSD, Natalie has contributed boldly and silently.”
More than 40 GSD students were nominated for the Unsung Hero Book Prize for 2018-2019. Read more about the Prize’s tenth anniversary, celebrated in 2016.