Marcus is a third year student at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design pursuing dual masters degrees in architecture (MArch I) and urban planning (MUP). Marcus was selected as one of twelve students from graduate schools across Greater Boston to receive the Rappaport Summer Public Policy Fellowship through Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. For his fellowship, Marcus worked with the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency supporting local economic development initiatives in the Commonwealth’s Gateway Cities. Recently, Marcus was a finalist for the American Planning Association’s Daniel J. Curtin, Jr. Fellowship, and will be working with the APA’s Planning & Law Division during the academic year. At Harvard, Marcus is passionate about creating a more equitable built environment and has taken courses at Harvard Law School, Harvard Kennedy School, and Harvard College. Prior to entering Harvard, Marcus graduated from Swarthmore College with a bachelor’s of art degree. He majored in art history and minored in public policy. At Swarthmore, Marcus was a Philip Evans Scholar, selected as one of six students in his class to receive summer stipends and a merit-based academic award. In his free time, he enjoys visiting art museums, going on long bike rides, and reading the news.
Our Interview with Marcus
What schools did you attend for undergrad and grad school?
I attending Swarthmore College and the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.
Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in Somerset, Massachusetts. I now live in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
What was your career like before grad school and what is it like now?
I attended graduate school directly after college and am currently in my fourth year. I am studying architecture (M.Arch I) and urban planning (MUP).
What influenced you to go to grad school?
I knew I wanted to put my passion for physical making into a field that was also social and political. Through talking with friends and mentors, and finding externships and internships in college, I found architecture to be a good fit. I decided to apply for grad school the summer before my senior year as I liked being in school and knew that getting a master’s degree was a prerequisite to practice in the field. Once in grad school, I realized that I was also interested in larger scale questions so I added a master’s in urban planning. It was only one extra year of school to do it currently with my master’s in architecture.
What was the most challenging part of the application process for you?
The most challenging part for me was preparing my portfolio. Doing this required me to present my personal work in a way that told a story and showed my spatial thinking and reasoning skills. This was an iterative process and I went back and forth changing layouts and work to feature along the way. Getting feedback that wasn’t always positive was challenging, but it was important to reach out to people you knew would be honest and supportive.
Tell us one of your favorite memories from graduate school.
One of my favorite memories thus far was meeting Kanye West (and Kim) in a round circle discussion. I am currently Vice President of the GSD African American Student Union and during my first year, we reached out to Kanye to see if he would like to have a conversation with us about being black in the design world. He was in town one weekend for a concert and dropped by, met with us as a group, talked about his aspirations and challenges working as a black artist, and then bought most of the school tickets to his show at TD Garden. It was incredible to meet somebody so passionate about his work and to see him perform, both in the same day.
How long have you been with TAOA and what led you to join the team?
I have been with TAOA since March 2016. I have always been passionate about helping others climb the daunting ladder that is higher education. As a first-generation college student, I understand the obstacles that people like me face in gaining access to the world’s top universities. My background, along with the great team that comprises TAOA, led me to join as a consultant.
Would you say you have any specialties when it comes to client work? If so, what are your specialties?
My specialties are being able to listen to my clients and think about a question or issue from multiple angles. I think I am good at asking my clients critical questions about what motivates them, why they wrote something a certain way, and pointing them in the right direction. Having been in academia for nearly eight years now, I think I have a strong understanding of what makes a powerful application to grad school.
What are three things you would want The Art of Applying’s clients and subscribers to know about you?
I am a fraternal twin. Though I’m five inches shorter than my brother, I am older than him by 42 minutes so I have more authority. I have discovered I have a great interest in traveling. Before college I had never left the country, but my education has taken me to three continents outside North America (South America, Europe, and Asia). I did gymnastics (amongst other sports) while I was younger and can do a backflip with no hands.
Anything else you want to add?
Working with TAOA has been a great experience and I look forward to working with more clients in the near future!