Today they call it “STEAM” education. For Paula Narvaez ’09 it was a typical Mayfield education.
Paula Narvaez ’09 was profoundly inspired by the intersection of art and science she experienced at Mayfield, igniting her passion for urban design.
Paula’s years in the Visual Arts Conservatory, work on the Crossroads yearbook and involvement in summer engineering programs set her on a path that melds science, math, art and innovation.
“Under the watchful eye of Ms. Nancy Wall, I honed my skills in traditional art, which unknowingly at the time helped build the foundation for my future academic career,” Paula said.
She also benefited from the kind of beyond-the-classroom experiences that become formative lessons for Mayfield students. The summer engineering programs that Dr. Blumenthal (or, as most of us know him, Dr. B) recommended not only challenged her intellectually, but also taught her that “women can lead in fields where we are very much underrepresented.”
Paula said that her yearbook coordinator, Natalie Franco ’98, encouraged her to “think in a way where the only wrong is to not try.” Paula said, “I truly have her to thank for exposing me to new levels of thinking and also for continuing to be my mentor to this day.”
After graduation, Paula began a five-year degree program in architecture at USC. In 2013 she spent time in Japan, China and South Korea studying Asian architecture and urbanism. Her immersion in large-scale urban design helped her learn ways to make spaces and places functional, attractive and sustainable, while taking into account both social equity and economic viability.
During her time in Asia, Paula learned the importance of giving form, shape and character to whole neighborhoods and how that can affect connections between people and places. She had discovered her new passion: placemaking.
Paula graduated with a B.A. in architecture in 2014 and went on to earn her Master’s degree in landscape architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, where she concentrated on urban design.
Paula also wove her commitment to service into her college education. She mentored undergraduates on campus who were curious about the design field and served on the PennDesign student council, where she helped bolster awareness of their responsibility as environmental stewards. She also gave back to the wider community by volunteering at The Center for Hispanic Excellence: La Casa Latina, Penn’s LatinX cultural center and community space.
She now works at Hart Howerton in San Francisco, a inter-disciplinary design firm that specializes in building communities and environments around the world. “It’s been a great introduction to the profession as I build the foundation of my career,” she said. Paula is grateful for her formative years at 500 Bellefontaine, where she discovered her gifts and embraced the Mayfield motto, “Actions Not Words.” Little did she know at age 15 that she would be using those gifts to build better cities for future generations.
by Sara Snider ’11, Co-Chair, Alumnae Council Communications Commission
Established in 1931, Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12. Noted for its rigorous academic program, which includes 21 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Mayfield’s curriculum is underscored by a philosophy of educating the “whole child,” which also encourages commitment to and excellence in the arts, athletics, community service and spiritual growth. The nurturing environment at Mayfield Senior School allows each student to flourish in an atmosphere of personal attention.