During her time at Santa Monica High School, Jamie Black found a source of inspiration in the counseling office. It’s where she met regularly with Laura Simone, not just to receive help with the college application process but also to pick her advisor’s brain about careers in education.
“I totally wanted to be a high school counselor,” Black said. “I talked to her about that process. … She’s definitely someone I’ve looked up to.”
Black, who graduated from Samohi in 2009, hasn’t forgotten about Simone’s influence on her professional path. She is now assisting students of her own as an admissions counselor at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, an independent post-secondary school that was established in Santa Monica in 1972. It is now located in the former Santa Fe Freight Depot in the Arts District east of Downtown Los Angeles.
“It’s an unconventional home for an architecture school,” Black said.
As a chief point of contact for prospective and incoming students at SCI-Arc, Black has a wide variety of duties and responsibilities. She handles phone calls and emails, gives tours and prepares applications for review by professional architects.
Black’s current job brought her back in touch with Samohi, as she recently reached out to parents to inform them about a 4-week summer program at SCI-Arc that introduces high school students to architecture. The so-called Design Immersion Days begin June 20.
SCI-Arc, which has about 500 students in a variety of undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate programs, offers a change of pace for Black.
After attending Roosevelt Elementary and Lincoln Middle schools, she went to Samohi and recalled the lack of individualized attention due to large classes on a campus whose enrollment topped 3,000 in Black’s senior year. Black personalized her experience by being active in student government and serving as a student representative on the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education.
And yet, for college, she found herself at an even larger school: the University of Wisconsin, her mother’s alma mater. Black studied education and mathematics in Madison, where she spent 5 years learning new skills and building her resume. She served as an admissions volunteer, answering questions from prospective students and parents. She also worked as a peer advisor.
“I knew I wanted to work in education, but in a smaller environment,” Black said. “At SCI-Arc, I know students’ names when they come in. Having that personal connection, that’s what I want.”
Black, who has been at SCI-Arc for about a year and a half, said students there have access to studio mentors who work in the field as practicing architects.
She said her background in math has helped her learn the ins and outs of architecture. She’s listened in on several critiques, during which professionals assess student work on display.
“I’ve gotten a crash course in it,” she said.
Black said her experience at Samohi contributed to her decision to pursue admissions work.
“I feel blessed that, by the time I graduated high school, I found the career path for me,” she said. “That mentorship is where I want to be. Admissions is where I want to be.”