Abby Shemoel’s curiosity and passion for adequate, sustainable shelter for millions of the world’s poor led her as far as Europe and South America—before she graduated.
“What I’d really like to do is to make use of my education and find a way to apply it so that it really works to improve and address this rapid urban growth that’s taking place around the world,” says Shemoel, ’11, landscape architecture. “Sustainability is certainly a huge issue we’re having to look at and deal with now.”
A Kokomo, Indiana, native, she spent her final semester at Ball State in Brazil, exploring informal settlements in Porto Alegre. For her thesis, she worked on a master plan and created designs to sustainably improve settlements that have been in place about 60 years.
"They have supermarkets, stores, bike repair shops, and all kinds of things, good and strong and in the community that you can build on and encourage to grow,” she says.
Her accomplishments during her Ball State career have a wide geographical range. They include a campus sustainability report, an immersive learning project through Building Better Communities Fellows; designs for downtown Muncie, Indiana, and field studies in Boston. Abroad, she studied urban landscapes in Europe on a four-week whirlwind trip, spent three months in Argentina volunteering for the Foundation for Sustainable Development, and researched the effects of environmental management on ecotourism in Costa Rica.
"Travel is a very important part of architecture and design, because to know what's good you need to be able to visit it and see it and experience it—which is another good thing about what I study," she says.
Shemoel was drawn to Ball State’s College of Architecture and Planning because she wanted to combine her interests in art and math. The college’s First-Year Program introduced her to architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning, which helped her decide on her major.
“With landscape architecture, I was able to address the environmental and social issues that most interested me,” she says.
Shemoel, a Ball State Presidential Scholar, earned scholarships from the Udall Foundation and the National Garden Clubs and was a finalist for the Rhodes and Olmstead scholarships. In fall 2011, she started her graduate studies at University College London, where she plans to earn a master's degree in urban development planning.
She hopes her studies will lead to a career in the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, also called U.N. Habitat, where she can develop sustainable solutions to accommodate urban growth.
“There’s a quality of life that everybody strives for and deserves,” she says. “And as we are looking at these sort of big, global issues related to climate change and to resources and we’re seeing so many more people moving in this direction, it becomes very important and a driving force to find ways that people can live in healthy ways that aren’t going to compromise the environment.”