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Exceptional Alumni: Carly Gallo - Bridging architecture and humanitarianism

Exceptional Alumni: Carly Gallo - Bridging architecture and humanitarianism

December 3, 2019 at 3:00pm

FIU Architecture alumna Carly Gallo has always had a deep passion for human rights. This has led to her developing a unique path for herself as she combines her architectural skills and humanitarian spirit to provide safe haven for marginalized groups. Gallo has collaborated and worked for various organizations to bring her passion to life and is developing new projects to support the marginalized across the world.

Name:Carly B. Gallo

Degree year graduated:Bachelor of Arts in Architecture, 2011

How has FIU helped you get where you are today?
The reward of being tired. During my time at FIU, specifically with the School of Architecture, I learned the art of discipline and the ability to wade through the failures in order to succeed. The culmination of never-ending nights and challenging academia formulated the dedication I have for my work.

What path did you take to attain your current career?
It’s been a well-calculated misadventure so far. From working in Washington, D.C., as a construction coordinator for the nonprofit Rebuilding Together to living for 28 months in Ethiopia to work on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, the ethos of my work has always focused on humanitarian relief.

What made you want to get involved with humanitarian work?
By nature, I am a human-centric person and find purpose in my work when it has a direct positive impact on others. The desire to solve a challenge in order to make someone's life better is something that’s always fascinated me.

What’s been the coolest thing about your job so far?
I launched two innovation hubs in Kigali, Rwanda, and Nairobi, Kenya, this year. The hubs provide space for entrepreneurs from under-resourced communities to gather, work with and build off each other to create positive social impact. 

What does a typical day for you look like?
That’s such a hard question! My work requires a ton of flexibility. Working with fellows in 78 countries and within all issue areas demands the dexterity to float between program meetings, reviewing proposals and late-night calls. It’s pretty marvelous to help these young entrepreneurs launch social enterprises in their communities. These projects run from solving architectural design and financial inclusion problems of low-income communities in South Africa to an NGO in Sierra Leone that’s advocating for the rights of female genital mutilation survivors. The fellows are truly remarkable!

How has working with groups such as the Peace Corps influenced your architectural work?
I think that it has led me to explore sustainable and ethically sound designs for refugee camps. While I was living in Ethiopia, there were a number of times when I wanted to leave, abandon my work and return to the comforts of a familiar environment. Throughout those 28 months, I had the privilege to walk away whenever I chose, and I still struggled mentally and physically. I could not imagine how hard it was to live without that choice, to be ripped from my home and forced to be a refugee. It was this self-imposed displacement that led me to want to work with refugees and provide a safe and comfortable haven for them during an enormously difficult time. 

Were there any classes or professors that influenced where you are today?
Yes, I had the honor of learning from the late Armando Montilla. His methodology was both visionary and compassionate. Armando humanized design in a way that gave me the courage to pursue humanitarian work. 

How do you plan to combine your humanitarian work and architecture skills in the future?
I’ve always been drawn to design and the concept of providing safe structures for marginalized communities. I’m starting to explore ways to fuse my passion for both through urban planning for refugee camps.   

What advice do you have for students interested in a career in your field?
Use the skills that you learn to create the career that you want. Make it what you want it to be, bend it, burn it and mold into something that brings you satisfaction.


Interview by Zion Sealy