Discover the inspiring story mentor, Veronica Sanders, an interior designer and graduate of the interior design program at the College of Architecture, Planning & Public Affairs who is making a difference in the lives of students at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Interior design is in my DNA. I have always been interested in creating beautiful and functional spaces, and I have been lucky enough to turn my passion into a successful career. However, I have always felt that it is important to give back to my community, and I have been involved in various forms of volunteer work and philanthropy over the years. In recent years, I have also become involved in mentorship, helping to guide young designers as they start out in their careers. I believe that it is important to use my skills and talents to serve others, and I will continue to do so throughout my career.
As a MavMentor with the University of Texas at Arlington, I was thrilled when my mentee and I were featured in the UTA Magazine. The program pairs students with mentors who can provide advice and guidance on their education and career paths.
My mentee is a motivated student who is eager to learn, and I have enjoyed watching him grow and develop over the past year. We have had some great conversations about his future plans, and I am confident that he will be successful in whatever he decides to do. I am grateful to have been able to play a small role in his education, and I look forward to seeing him continue to thrive in the years to come. Read the original blog post feature below (repost from UTA Magazine):
Gerardo Alvarez (’22 BS, Architecture) arrived at UTA fresh from his decision to pivot from studying aerospace engineering to architecture. Though he was excited to tackle the discipline, he felt like he was behind as he listened to fellow students talk about programs they were doing and how they had been studying architecture since high school.
As a first-generation student, Alvarez received support from his family, but they didn’t know how to help him—so when he came across UTA’s MavMentors program in a campus email, he saw it as an opportunity to start garnering the knowledge he would need to succeed in the real world.
MavMentors fosters meaningful partnerships between alumni and student mentees that will help mentees better navigate their career path. In the program, mentees are encouraged to choose a mentor who best matches their current and future professional goals, but Alvarez saw it as a chance to connect with someone who could broaden his understanding of the field.
“It was a purposeful, strategic move to pick a mentor who was outside of my discipline,” Alvarez says. “I didn’t really just want to hear more about architecture; I wanted to have an opportunity to hear from other portions of the field, like interior design.”
The mentor who MavMentors connected him with was Veronica Sanders (’18 BS, Interior Design), CEO and principal interior designer at Design with Veronica Sanders LLC. Sanders laughs as she reflects on how, despite their different professional focuses, her journey mirrors Alvarez’s.
“One of the reasons I wanted to join MavMentors as a mentor is because I’m also a first-generation graduate,” she says. “I know what it was like to not have mentorship or someone to guide me through the admissions process, classes, or filling out scholarship forms. I knew that somewhere out there was another first-generation student who’s struggling, and I can offer them support.”
Sanders and Alvarez agree that interior design and architecture are closely aligned but not often intersecting in ways that could maximize the benefits of collaboration.
“With Gerardo, I could give him the interior designer’s perspective on architecture and share how we lean on architects and how we hope architects will lean on us,” she says.
Given their intentionality about expanding their professional perspectives, it is no surprise that Sanders and Alvarez hit it off within just a few minutes of meeting. Alvarez said Sanders’ friendly and open nature helped the relationship feel organic from the start, while Sanders attributes the success of their mentor-mentee relationship to Alvarez’s inherent curiosity and preparedness.
“I needed help across the board, especially when it came to setting up resumes and portfolios, entering an interview, and engaging with architecture firms and their higher-ups,” Alvarez says. “As I got closer to graduation, questions flooded in, and I’d jot them down to ask Veronica about.
“What I really appreciate about Veronica is how she calmed that panic by reminding me that I’m capable,” Alvarez adds. “It’s easy to get caught up in the business of architecture, but she reminded me I’m still an artist and that I should keep my mind open and be creative to avoid falling in a groove of this just being a job.”
After graduating, Alvarez went to work at Von Perry LLC, a startup that develops 3D-printed houses with the goal of developing affordable housing.
Inspired by her experience mentoring Alvarez, Sanders decided to embark on a new career journey as an adjunct professor at Dallas College’s El Centro Campus. She said meeting Alvarez through MavMentors sparked a love of teaching and a desire to continue mentoring students.
At the start, Sanders and Alvarez thought their time would be focused on a former student passing knowledge to a current student. Instead, they landed in a mutually inspiring relationship filled with shared admiration.
As Sanders notes, “As professionals, we can do so much better if we work together.”
If you're interested in working with an interior designer who loves to give back, is active in mentorship and works to improve the community, then let's connect.
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