January 23, 2020

Spotlight Series: Elsa Haarstad, M.A.H.P. '20

Get to know Elsa Haarstad, M.A.H.P. '20

Our spotlight series highlights a student or graduate of the Welch Center for Graduate and Professional Studies. We asked these individuals about their careers, hobbies, and what they love about their program.

This week's feature is: 
Elsa Haarstad, M.A.H.P. 20
Design and Research Coordinator, Twopoint Studio LLC

What do you like most about your program?

I love that I am developing an expertise in the language surrounding the built environment, and I love the encouragement I have had from all my professors. It is hard to choose a professor who has impacted me most as they all have, but if I had to choose one, it would be Lauren Schiszik, who taught my Preservation Technology course and is now chairing my thesis committee. Her expertise and knowledge within the practice as a preservation planner makes her an incredibly astute, compassionate, and critical resource. Her lessons have been continuously invaluable, and I know I will look to her long after this program ends. 

What is the most important thing you’ve learned in your program?

I’ve learned that being critical and cutting edge in thinking around people-centered preservation is great, but it is nothing without a strong educational foundation of traditional preservation topics. The concept of people-centered preservation is very big in the field right now—a long-overdue practice of recognizing that people are experts on what is significant in their own community and that preservationists can instead be facilitators of preservation rather than dictators. In order to give up that power within a community, understanding the various ways in which a traditional preservation framework has supported inequitable changes in the built environment aids one in realizing the need for this change.  

Tell us about your first job in your field of study?

When I graduated from undergrad, I was asked to join an architecture collective in Baltimore. I ran the public art engagement, curated a gallery space, developed our marketing materials, and applied for and developed proposals for public art projects throughout Baltimore for a team of collaborative architecture firms.

What is your advice to individuals who are looking to pursue a career related to your program?

There are many opportunities to get involved in the field—start by looking to your local professional organizations, historical societies, libraries, and events spaces. Attend all events that you can, ask questions, and stay engaged—networking is a great way to get to know people, find opportunities, and figure out what aspects of the field you’re most drawn to.

Is there a member of your cohort who has impacted you positively? If so, who? How have they impacted you?

I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of my peers. Those who come first to mind would be Amy, Kelsey, Nikki, and Julie. Having these ladies to grapple with assigned readings has helped foster more fulfilling in-class discussions and made connecting during our residencies more exciting.