“The Parsons way of thinking helped me introduced me to all aspects of architecture, and that’s a lot more than design and blueprints,” says Nelson De Jesus Ubri, who graduated from the BFA Architectural Design program in 2015. “Today I collaborate with political scientists, agronomists, social workers, teachers, civil and environmental engineers, journalists, and local landowners, and we all share the same goal: to find real-world solutions to natural disasters and improve coastal resilience.”
Born in the Dominican Republic, De Jesus Ubri is well acquainted with the destruction caused by hurricanes. During his childhood, hurricanes were a major part of his daily existence; if not preparing for the next storm, he and his family were repairing
damage from the previous one. Then, in 1998, when he was just six years old, Hurricane Georges struck his island. The hurricane’s impact overturned his family home and reshaped the landscape of his town. De Jesus Ubri describes his most visceral memory:
“I remember the howl of the wind in the trees and brutish noises produced by debris being dragged on the ground. Nobody was allowed to go outside because injury from flying objects could be lethal.”
After his family moved to the United States, De Jesus Ubri attended Pan American International High School, a school for students who have been in the country for less than four years. Soon after, he was introduced to the Parsons Scholars Program, a university
initiative providing youth from underrepresented backgrounds with the opportunity to explore art and design and build college prep skills. De Jesus Ubri was determined to make the most of his education and delved into Parsons’ interdisciplinary class
projects by working with students at the School of Constructed Environments (SCE) in a mentorship program. Later he extended his studies with a four-week program at Parsons Paris.
“My studies in New York, in combination with courses at Parsons Paris, gave me a taste of how rewarding my college experience could be, especially if I continued my education at Parsons. I learned so much; I wanted to continue the New School tradition
by becoming a Parsons Scholar mentor while pursuing my bachelor’s degree,” he says.
Currently, De Jesus Ubri is pursuing a Master of Architecture at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) and plans ultimately to complete a dual master’s degree combining an MArch and an MS Urban Planning program. His recent GSAPP research proposing to employ tree-planted streetscapes in NYC’s Upper West Side to make the city more livable and environmentally sustainable earned De Jesus Ubri a Buell Paris Prize, given to students whose work aligns with the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. De Jesus Ubri continues to serve as a Youth Advocate in the Parsons Scholars Program, where he assists high school students exploring art and design in college-level classes with college application and financial aid processes. A program alumnus himself, Nelson is eager to work with newer generations of Parsons Scholars, guiding them toward their higher education goals and newfound passions involving art and design.