Banner graphic with headshot of Maya and text "Student Spotlight: Maya Adachi MArch I ’25" in black on green background

“For people without an architecture background, it can be difficult to even consider pursuing an education in the field. Financial aid plays a crucial role in motivating and supporting nontraditional architecture students such as myself. Many students without an architectural background can bring forth unique perspectives, adding richness and diversity to the future of architecture.”

– Maya Adachi MArch I ’25

Born and raised in Japan, Maya moved to the United States at age 19 to pursue her undergraduate degree. Unlike many of her peers at the GSD, Maya didn’t study architecture as an undergraduate; yet after being introduced to the idea of spatial design in a theater class, she yearned to learn more. She knew a graduate program in architecture would greatly benefit her career, but without a traditional background in architecture—or sufficient financial support—Maya doubted her ability to attend.

“I had been uncertain about my career path, so I was overjoyed to finally discover my passion. The prospect of delving deeper into the world of architecture—a composite of design, philosophy, science, and social work— filled me with a sense of purpose that I had never experienced.”

Maya actively sought assistance during the application process, particularly regarding the creation of her portfolio. During an open-house event at the GSD, she had the opportunity to connect with a student who graciously reviewed her portfolio and provided valuable guidance. Though cautiously optimistic, Maya knew that it wouldn’t be possible for her to attend the GSD without some form of financial assistance. 

“Taking out loans wasn’t realistic for me or my family. I thought that I might end up just getting a job, and if I saved enough money in five or six years then I could reapply to the GSD. It would have been difficult to wait that long, because I was really craving an education in architecture.” 

Not only was Maya accepted into the GSD, but she received a generous financial aid award including one of two annual Uniqlo fellowships, which are intended for students from Japan attending Harvard. It was a moment of joy and validation for Maya, confirming that her dedication and hard work had paid off. With her acceptance letter and fellowship, Maya embarked on a new chapter, brimming with anticipation and a renewed sense of purpose in her career.

“I couldn’t believe it when I received a phone call notifying me of my acceptance into the GSD and the news that I had also been awarded a scholarship. It was an overwhelming moment of sheer joy and disbelief. I could not appreciate more that the school saw value in the lens through which I comprehend architecture; I finally felt that my choice was right.” 

Collage with two images of student Maya Adachi MArch I ’25 on a green background

Maya moved to Cambridge the following August and, a few days later, began attending the Architecture Core Prep workshop, a summer program for students with non-architectural backgrounds. While she maintained her excitement, Maya struggled at times during her first semester, as everything about the experience was new and unfamiliar to her. 

After this initial learning curve, Maya started adapting to her new environment and discovered a specific passion for designing spaces that prioritize well-being and inclusivity. Her latest project, a collaboration with fellow GSD student Madison Kim MArch ’25, focuses on transforming office spaces in Boston into cooperative housing. 

“Having people with different backgrounds at the GSD makes the program more valuable, especially in collaborative projects. Partnering with a student who has an architectural background was a key factor in making our collaboration successful. This is why financial aid opportunities play a huge role in enabling individuals without a background in architecture, like me, to pursue their studies and commit to the program.”  

After graduation, Maya envisions herself practicing architecture in a small town where architects play an integral role within the community. She would like to be a local architect, closely connected to the needs and projects of the town’s residents; as she describes it, much like a trusted town doctor. 

“I find myself oscillating between two paths: one pursuing modest spaces without a strong overarching message, which can be a perfect backdrop for one’s life story and gently embracing everyday life; the other, stimulating individuals and posing questions through architecture. I look forward to spending my career finding the balance.”

The GSD Fund for Financial Aid increases the financial aid available to current and prospective students, removing economic barriers for talented designers like Maya. This vital support is made possible, in part, through annual giving. 

Learn more about annual giving and its impact at the GSD here.