As a junior architecture major, Sara Cangarlu landed a full-time paid internship last year at a Washington, D.C., firm, where she was assigned to work on a major project — the design of a sports entertainment complex in Buffalo, NY.

Using skills she’d learned at the University’s School of Architecture and Planning, Cangarlu first started sketching designs on paper for a golf-themed complex that would feature a Retrofuturistic style. Next she worked on the computer, using a software program called Archicad to design rooms in the hotel that would be part of the complex. 

During her internship, Cangarlu became a respected member of the team at CORE architecture + design and experienced firsthand the value of the University’s Integrated Path to Architecture Licensure (IPAL) program. Students in the program have to complete their coursework and the internships and six standardized exams required to become a licensed architect while they’re in school.

For candidates in the standard licensure track, the path to becoming a licensed architect can take at least seven years following the completion of a master’s degree. They often don’t have the opportunity to complete the required internships while they’re in school and aren’t allowed to start taking their exams until after they graduate from a National Architectural Accrediting Board program such as the University’s. 

Students in the IPAL track complete all the requirements for licensure and can start working full time as licensed architects by the time they graduate. 

Cangarlu, whose family lives in Bethesda, Md., enrolled in the program as a sophomore. She took three courses the summer before her sophomore year, so she wouldn’t have to take any classes during the internship. Hired with benefits, she put in 40 hours a week from May to December 2019 at the firm in DC’s Georgetown neighborhood. For Cangarlu, the full-time job would fulfill one of the three internships required by the University’s IPAL program.

Patricia Andrasik, associate dean for undergraduate studies and coordinator of IPAL, notes that the firm gave Cangarlu more responsibilities than the typical intern because she was able to work full time for more than just a few months. Cangarlu took academic leave, as required by the program.

Noting that the rigorous IPAL program isn’t for every student, Andrasik says that Cangarlu’s been successful because she’s “very driven and goal-oriented.” Cangarlu even managed to spend the fall semester of her junior year at the University’s Rome campus.

When Cangarlu started her internship, the firm was working on the design of OnCore — the sports entertainment complex in Buffalo. Their initial concept called for a design characterized by a blend of "retro styles" with futuristic technology.

Cangarlu says the concept reminded her of the 1960s animated sitcom The Jetsons. She drew sketches of possible interiors and small details of the building. After working on the sketches for a few weeks, she says she presented them to a couple of the firm’s architects who “loved them.”

She also worked on what she called “vignettes” — sketches of spaces in the complex from different vantage points. The vignettes show views that could be problematic, prompting questions that have to be resolved as part of a design. Questions such as: If someone’s standing in a particular spot, what do they see? Is anything obstructing their view?  

After three months at the firm, Cangarlu says she had a better understanding of “the workflow of an architectural office. The architects had a good sense of my skill set; I had gained their trust.” 

Now a senior who hopes to run her own firm one day, Cangarlu’s planning to start the graduate architecture program at Catholic University in the fall. While she’s anxious about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on her employment prospects, she’s confident that her participation in IPAL will give her a leg up when she’s looking for a full-time job.

“Anything that sets you apart in these times is definitely valuable,” she adds.