image of unsung heros


The Harvard University Graduate School of Design’s Alumni Council and the GSD’s Frances Loeb Library are pleased to honor five students with the 2022 Unsung Hero Book Prize. This year’s honorees are Junainah N. Ahmed MArch ’23, Aeshna Sanjive Prasad MAUD ’21, MDes ’22, Sarah Elizabeth Page MAUD ’23, Naksha Satish MAUD ’22, and Arshaya Sood MDes ’22, MUP ’23.  

Deserving students are nominated for the Unsung Hero Book Prize each spring by fellow GSD students, faculty, and staff, and winners are selected by the Alumni Council. Now in its 16th year, this award received 74 nominations for 52 different students.

“We want to honor the students who act in selfless ways to make the GSD a better place,” said Alumni Council member and award co-chair John di Domenico MAUD ’79. “Our Unsung Heroes are an essential part of the GSD, and this award recognizes their presence, the importance of their work, and how they elevate a positive atmosphere at the school.”

Prize recipients are recognized with a book of their selection by the Alumni Council, with a second copy donated to the Loeb Library with a bookplate commemorating the awardee’s service to the GSD community.

“Anyone who finds a book chosen by an Unsung Hero will find the bookplate with their name on it in the book in the library, so those documents are part of the culture of the GSD,” sad Loeb Librarian and Assistant Dean for Information Services Ann Whiteside. “And, since libraries are about ensuring information reflects our culture, in this case, it’s the culture of design as well as the GSD. We’re honored to be able to do this as part of our participation in the Unsung Hero Award.”

Established in 2006 by the GSD Alumni Council, the prize is now in its 16th year. The five 2022 Unsung Heroes received universal praise from their peers for their work to forge memorable connections among the student body. These women have also shown leadership in their many roles—including teaching assistant, resident adviser, and student forum chair—at the GSD.

“There were recurring themes about selflessness and giving time to lift up others and build community,” said Alumni Council member and award co-chair Beth Roloff MArch ’14. “As a jury and for the broader Alumni Council, we want to acknowledge all that these students do and celebrate how they contribute to building a fairer and inclusive GSD.”

Junainah Ahmed is from Salt Lake City and studied architecture at the University of Utah prior to arriving at the GSD. She has served in student government as Student Groups Chair on Student Forum and is next year’s President of Student Forum. She has formerly served as co-chair of Womxn in Design. She also serves as a teaching assistant to core architecture studios, is a teaching and research assistant to K. Michael Hays, and is a technical assistant in the Fabrication Lab. Her interests are the intersection of art, curatorial practices, post-colonial studies, and architecture.

Junainah selected “Eileen Gray: An Architecture for All Senses” edited by Caroline Constant and Wilfred Wang, as her book. Of receiving the award, Junainah said, “I am so grateful to be nominated and selected among so many deserving students at the GSD. I love the community that we have here and am always very grateful to be able to work with so many people here that show so much dedication to not only their studies but also toward bettering the school for one another.”

Aeshna Prasad is from Mumbai, India, and is passionate and committed to addressing questions of urban resilience, sustainable development and social equity, especially through the lenses of affordable housing, infrastructure, critical conservation and climate adaptation. She earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the NMIMS’s Balwant Sheth School of Architecture and worked for reputed Indian design studios before attending the GSD. Aeshna has also pursued several internships, including at Robert A.M. Stern Architects in New York, and her work has been spread across diverse geographies such as Mumbai, Cape Town, New York, Boston, and Colombia. She has served as Harvard Graduate Council Chair and Diversity and Inclusion Chair in the Student Forum, as co-chair of South Asia GSD, and as the editor of the Urban Design Department’s publication platform UD:ID.

Aeshna selected “Brodsky & Utkin” edited by Lois Nesbitt as her book. Of receiving the award, Aeshna said, “It’s not often that I am taken by complete surprise, but when I found out I had received this award, I was. When telling a friend about it, I also recognized that an award such as this means more to me than most of my past accomplishments. Building community, making things less of a black box, sharing knowledge and insights that help people grow, are all things that I strive to keep at the center of both my work and my personal interactions. This award attempts to celebrate these very things. Furthermore, I think getting nominated for it at a school like GSD, that can often feel like a pressure cooker, isolating and stressful, means even more. I believe, while each of us in this community is ambitious – striving to grow and excel— we must always remember that it is important to bring other people along. My parents have always said: ‘Being a great designer is important, but being a good person comes first.’ Touching people’s lives positively, even in a small way, is of infinite value. This book prize will go along with me wherever I find myself in the future, and it will remind me of just this, and for that I am ever grateful.”

Sarah Page is a designer who believes in creating a built environment that elevates the human experience. Originally from Athens, Alabama, she studied architecture at Auburn University. Her work in the design-build program, Rural Studio, focused on framing community space within cultural heritage sites and providing affordable rural housing. Having practiced architecture in Tennessee and Mississippi, she is passionate about positively impacting social, economic, and environmental systems within the southern United States. Within the GSD’s Architecture and Urban Design program, Sarah plans to pursue a thesis exploring potential value capture methods for rural communities defined by systems of extraction.

Sarah selected “Routledge Companion to Rural Planning” by Mark Scott, Nick Gallent, and Menelaos Gkartzios as her book. Of receiving the award, Sarah said, “I am honored to be recognized by my community: a group of students who are consistently designing spaces that foster the cultivation of community. My cohort has consistently lifted each other up, and I am grateful to call each of them a friend.”

Naksha Satish is an architect, urban practitioner, and India Design Leadership Fellow at Harvard University. Upon completion of her undergraduate studies at the School of Architecture at CEPT University, India, she pursued an urban fellowship program at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) in Bangalore. Throughout her time at the GSD, she has contributed through various roles: as GSD representative of the Harvard External Advocacy Council; Professional Development Chair, Student Forum 21-22; as a Class Representative; and as a student liaison bridging the gap between Alumni Council and Student Body. She is currently a finalist in the Plimpton Poorvu Design Prize, an award that recognizes outstanding performance in balancing Real Estate Development and Social Design goals. Naksha’s interests and work lie at the intersection of technology, housing, and design of cities.

Naksha selected “Smart Cities and Artificial Intelligence: Convergent Systems for Planning, Design, and Operations” by Christopher Grant Kirwan and Zhiyong Fu as her book. Of receiving the award, Naksha said, “Receiving this recognition through the Unsung Hero Award is a great way to encourage students to contribute to their peers and build a sense of community without anticipation of reward. I’m humbled and honored to receive this recognition and hope to be this bridge between students and alumni as I cross that line of graduation myself. My utmost gratitude to the Harvard GSD Alumni Council for this recognition.”

Arshaya Sood earned her undergraduate degree at University of Virginia in Architecture prior to working in New York City as an architect. Her current research explores the intersection of policy, gender, and sustainability, examining the barriers that result from urbanization, climate change, and food insecurity. She is interested in finding opportunity for improving connectivity between urban and rural communities.  She has served in student government and as a teaching assistant in courses within the Urban Planning department. In her free time, Arshaya loves to watercolor, play tennis, and take long runs.

Arshaya selected “Le Corbusier Sketchbooks, Vol. 4, 1957-1964” from the Architectural History Foundation as her book. Of receiving the award, Arshaya said, “There’s so much power behind this community and the GSD is so supportive. Awards like this really motivate us to keep going and giving back to the community, and I am so honored to be recognized with the four other ladies here and to even be part of this group. Thank you to everyone for constantly being a cheerleader for all the work that we do—not just myself, but everyone at the GSD.”