Jul 31, 2014

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A Latina Experience: On Growth, Harvard and Self-Discovery

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My mother once told me that I could make it anywhere, that it did not matter whether I was in the United States or the Dominican Republic. She knew I was going to be a professional. My brain was the key, my mother would say…

I am proud of all the things that I have done in life, but graduating from college and deciding to further my education was, undoubtedly, a turning point in my life — everything changed afterwards.

I graduated from the College of Mount Saint Vincent with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and minor in Fine Arts on May 2010.  I graduated top of my class in the Mathematics Department with honors, and was awarded the Mathematics Department Medal at graduation — a moment that I will always value as a young woman that overcame barriers in a field dominated by men. At an early age, I discovered my passion for mathematics, especially because of the beauty it expressed with its geometric figures.

I recall the moment when I went on the stage to receive my award —  I thought about my elementary school, where I was in a bilingual class, struggling with Math.  My mother was the one who taught me math, which then became a language that I understood better than English.  In fact, mathematics became a language that both my mother and I understood in mi mundo de números (my world of numbers).

As a first year student in college, I remember how my fine arts professor found my work fascinating.  I designed a leaf-strewn walkway that he said “was a compelling and fully-realized piece of work.” I then had a wonderful epiphany that made me realize that I wanted to be an architect. I talked to my professor about my decision to minor in Fine Arts. I was not completely sure if it was really architecture what I wanted to do, but I knew I was already a designer.

I started to do various independent studies in relation to mathematics, art, and architecture, since my school did not have a formal pre-architecture program. My professors tried, through the independent study, to provide what I needed to prepare for graduate study in architecture.  After several independent studies and research work, I began to develop an interest in the relation between mathematics and design. That became my main motivation; I knew I was ready to change the design world.

I wanted to go to graduate school for architecture.  While searching online for a design-related program, I came across the Harvard Career Discovery Program, a six week program that invites students to explore career possibilities in their life. The program offers a variety of concentrations such as architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, and urban design. Students engage in intensive studio work, lectures, workshops and field trips.  I submitted an application and waited impatiently for this opportunity.

I received a decision by E-mail. I nervously opened the letter and it said Congratulations welcome to the Harvard Career Discovery Program! I could not believe it. I felt as if all my hard work had been rewarded! Everyone was very excited for me. I was ready to learn and make a decision about architecture over the summer of 2010.

The Career Discovery was very expensive, and my mother and I could not afford it.  However, I applied for a grant from the school and was awarded full tuition to attend the program.  My mentor from the GE Mentoring Program helped me with the room and board expenses. I truly thank her for what she did.

The program started in June! I had everything packed by the third week of May before my graduation. I was ready to go. Up to that point, I had never felt that excited in my life. It was also going to be my first time in Boston. Most importantly, I was going to Harvard!

My mother and younger brother took me to Harvard University — we arrived in Boston on a Friday afternoon. I checked into the Harvard University Law School dorms. I was staying in the second floor!

In the Program, I learned about design, worked on intensive graduate school level projects, participated in group discussions and presented projects to instructors.  It was through this experience that I discovered that I wanted to be a landscape architecture, using the logic of mathematics. Today, I am pursuing a Master’s Degree in Landscape Architecture at The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, CUNY City College of New York.

I could not be more satisfied with my decision. I am now working on a second publication and a book with a PhD. professor from my graduate school. This will be another addition to my thesis idea. I feel much stronger and confident than ever, and have many projects in mind.

As a landscape architect and mathematician, I want to extract the beauty of mathematics to design public spaces that enhance neighborhoods.  Places where I hope to have the opportunity to express my designs include the United States, the Dominican Republic, India, and Brazil.  My goal is to own a Landscape Architecture firm  and create scholarship programs to help increase the number of Hispanic students attending college.

I highly recommend the Career Discovery Program at Harvard. I met some great people there, who helped me with my portfolio and graduate essay.  I also found love there, and I am currently engaged to a wonderful man.

I found my passion in life!  Most importantly, I found a place where I can design with numbers! I hope that you find your own mundo de números!

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Yafreisy Carrero

Yafreisy Carrero

Yafreisy Carrero is a Mathematician and future Landscape Architect. She holds a Bachelor’s of Arts in Mathematics and minor in Fine Arts from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, has studied at The Art Students League of New York, and attended the Career Discovery Program for architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. One of her passions in life is to create new landscape architectural design systems using the logic of mathematics.

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Comments

  1. Amazing story of how your are connecting your love of math and landscape architect to design public spaces! The Harvard Career Discovery Program helped you tremendously in discovering your passion! Awesome post Yafreisy!

    • Muchas gracias Isabel for reading my story! Yes, it was certainly the Harvard Career Discovery Program that put me in the right path to discover that I no longer wanted to be an architect. At the same time, I had a beautiful epiphany and experience outside of the program that helped me confirm that landscape architecture is my calling, and that I can design on land using the logic of numbers. Abrazos!

  2. Great post! Never let anything stop you from pursuing your dreams! Adelante!

    • Amen! Muchas gracias Tracy for reading my story! The hardships that I experienced in life have made me stronger. I made a promise to God and myself that I will continue to pursue my dreams and share my story, regardless of the obstacles, and motivate others to see that everything is possible. To keep moving forward! We know that the journey to success is not as easy as it might seem, but I hope to become living evidence that it is worth it to take the ride, and help others a long the way to strive for excellence. I wrote this article thinking of my family and friends, especially the ones in the Dominican Republic. Mucho gusto! Abrazos!

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