Scholarship Award Recognizes Power of Personal Identity

Alumna receives 2023 Payette Sho-Ping Chin Memorial Academic Scholarship

by Lyric Iglehart • October 3, 2023

The Architects Foundation recently awarded University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design alumna Michelle Ovanessians (' 23) the 2023 Payette Sho-Ping Chin Memorial Academic Scholarship. The $10,000 scholarship supporting women studying architecture in a NAAB-accredited bachelor's or master's degree program honors the legacy of Sho-Ping Chin, FAIA, an American Institute of Architects (AIA) leader and long-term principal at Payette, passionate for the firm's work in healthcare architecture.

The Scholarship seeks to support architects focused on improving the human condition and quality of life. Ovanessians' application reflected her unique background of having been born into a "nomadic-like" lifestyle due to living as an Armenian-American in multiple countries, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and the United States. Her fascination with vast atmospheres created by the built environment became apparent during her upbringing in very different societies.

above: A video for Ovanessians' project, "NUKETOWN;" a photo of Ovanessians

"Along my journey, I encountered fleeting narratives that gradually imbued me with a unique wisdom and an authentic approach to life," said Ovanessians.

Outside of the significant financial support, each Scholarship recipient is assigned a senior mentor to help establish contacts within the profession for a year. Ovanessians also discovered great value in the network of Sho-Ping Chin scholars. This year, the prestigious 2023 AIA Women in Leadership Summit Conference in Boston featured a new cohort of scholars. The annual summit unites women across architecture and design, empowering women in their journey to leadership and operating around barriers to their progress in the field.

"I am grateful for the chance to be part of these meaningful gatherings," shared Ovanessians. "I look forward to the continued growth and collaboration within our academic and professional communities."

above: Images from Ovanessians' award-winning work

Throughout her undergraduate academic career, Ovanessians curated projects garnering recognition in the architecture community. Most recently, the 2023 Architizer Vision Awards celebrated Ovanessians as a Special Mention honoree for her project Nuke Town and, again, as a Special Mention honoree for her project A Bosnian Folktale with classmate Bruno Belo Xavier. She has also seen recognition from the 2023 and 2022 AIA Houston Design Awards, the 2023 AIA Dallas Design Awards, the 2022 DCA Drawing Exhibition, and the 2021 AIA Fort Worth Excellence in Architecture Student Design Awards.

Ovanessians' success sets a path for designers seeking to bring personal experience into their design work. Her projects serve as an extension of her identity, an expression reflected in her unique style, inspiring others to express themselves more fully. She hopes that others like her will embrace innovation and non-conformity and employ architecture in a mission to use expression to represent underrepresented voices.

"In architecture, a flexible and non-linear approach to design is key," explained Ovanessians. "Embrace sketching and allow ideas to evolve organically. Design is anything but linear."


Back to TOP

Back to TOP


More College of Architecture and Design Stories

Flash photography, Smile, Eyebrow, Sleeve, Gesture, Happy

The lessons Ami Shah (M.Arch. '03) learned at the Hines College helped propel her to success. "It provided a solid foundation, allowing me to expand my horizons and explore different design ideas and theoretical approaches in a way I had not before."

Flash photography, Face, Head, Gesture

This fall, two Hines College alumni commenced the next step in their academic careers, beginning graduate studies at two Ivy League universities – Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) and Princeton University School of Architecture.

Window, Building, Architecture, Brick, Leisure

The Hines College student organizations welcomed new incoming students for an entirely in-person day of welcome on August 20. Welcome Day is wholly run by the Hines College's student organizations and supported by donations solicited from the Houston community.

Material property, Font
Material property, Font, Rectangle
Rectangle, Font
Mammal, Font