On May 10, 2019, the University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design will celebrate something extraordinary at its graduation. The college will recognize Shoaib Nizami ‘19 as its first graduating deaf student. Charting new territory for the Hines College, Nizami has overcome many adversities in his journey to be an architect.
Growing up in Pakistan, Nizami was drawn to the University of Houston because of its reputation as a top architecture college. He had dreamed of a career in architecture from an early age, spending hours drawing floor plans for residential homes.
“My mother was the first to remind me of this gift, and encouraged me to pursue architecture, despite my hearing loss,” said Nizami.
The UH Center for Students with DisABILITIES worked closely with Nizami to provide accessibility resources for his studies, but the technical language of architecture brought about many challenges in interpretation. Working with sign language interpreters experienced and knowledgeable in architecture was crucial to his success as a student.
“I also took advantage of every opportunity to meet one-on-one with instructors and be involved in the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) organization,” Nizami explained. “As a deaf person, I did not get all of the information that hearing students had access to simply by listening to others.
Nizami experienced the unexpected during his second year at UH when his mother passed away. His mother’s death put a strain on his studies, but with the help of UH professors and his fellow students, Nizami was able to move forward and stay on track.
“I just remember my mom always saying – you can do it, you can do anything, don’t give up.” His mother’s words carried him throughout the remainder of his architecture education at UH.
In Fall 2018, Nizami had the opportunity to study abroad in Columbia with architecture professor, William Truitt, and other Hines College students. Studying abroad would normally be a difficult task for a deaf student, but he was able to travel with assistance provided by the university. UH arranged for his preferred interpreters to travel with their team and provide interpreter services so that Nizami could have full accessibility on the trip.
“Without the support of UH, my professors, my interpreters, and my fellow students, I would have never reached graduation, like I am today,” Nizami said. “I’m proud to be graduating from the UH Hines College of Architecture and Design.”
Following graduation, Nizami will remain in Houston where he begins his professional career in architecture. Like many UH Hines College alumni, he will surely be an influential part of the Houston architectural community.