Nyla Thompson ’20

Kurani, New York, NY

Kurani interns working in the Center for Social Innovation.
Kurani interns working in the Center for Social Innovation.

This summer I have worked at Kurani, an architecture and design firm that focuses on creating education spaces for those who need it most. I was initially drawn to this internship because of how niche the opportunity appeared and because I wanted to learn how an organization within an industry that is not traditionally focused on social impact work still accomplishes its socially impactful projects. I was not disappointed. I worked with four other interns in an office space that functioned as a collaborative WeWork type of space for social entrepreneurship called the Center for Social Innovation. We worked along with the founder of the firm, Danish, from 9 to 6 every day on various projects that aligned with our assigned roles during the internship.

As the marketing and communications intern, I learned about the Kurani mission and how to communicate that mission effectively to the world. One of the first projects I worked on was editing a press release for a recently completed project for the non-profit organization Black Girls Code that provides a space for young black girls to participate in tech related projects. Kurani built a tech lab for the California based organization in the NYC Google headquarters, and choosing to take on projects that fight adversity is one of the ways the firm does the same through design. Black Girls Code encourages young Black girls to pursue computer science despite the lack of representation within the industry, and I admire the way that my previous boss Danish Kurani puts thought into the types of projects his firm takes on. After making edits to the press release for the project, I became familiar with a CRM platform called Podio and compiled a media list of contacts in the press that would be best to send the release to. I learned how to personally reach out to people in persuasive ways and stay organized with the hundreds of emails and responses that I had to keep track of. This is a skill that I used throughout my entire internship and I was able to get the press release published on eight different platforms. This experience also led to me eventually writing my own piece on Kurani’s project with an unconventional school that will open this fall. I now know how to pitch my writing to media outlets and hopefully get published with the help of my boss.

In addition to directly communicating with media outlets, I also took care of Kurani’s social media. I managed their twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and website. I learned different ways to market Kurani on the platforms effectively and I even worked with the other interns to launch a website for a new project Kurani is taking on. Thinking about content for the website, emails, and pdfs was a great way to think about different strategies of marketing. I learned how to catch people’s attention through language that portrayed surprise, urgency, self-interest, and detail. Danish gave me resources to read to help me recognize what those devices were and how to appropriately use them. I would have never come across these resources and this academic knowledge of marketing if it were not for my internship this summer.

During the internship, along with the fellow interns, I also had the opportunity to visit the sites of a couple of projects. We visited Black Girls Code in the Google NYC headquarters twice to see the progress and almost finished space. We listened in on conversations at Black Girls Code between our supervisor and the contractor, and learned the ins and outs of the physical transformation process after the design is finalized. These visits definitely helped give me context of the project for my Black Girls Code press release assignment. The second place we visited was a public school in Brooklyn where Kurani is creating a Literacy Lounge. This lounge was designed with the purpose of increasing the literacy rates of the high schoolers in this predominantly Black public high school where students were still struggling with skills that they would need to successfully apply to college. I assisted in a photoshoot that Kurani organized at this school to obtain personalized scalies within our renderings of the lounge. Scalies are the models in the images of the future finished learning spaces that Kurani experts create. These renderings of the lounge will be used on our website like others posted to help give context on previous projects, and it will also be used with potential clients who are looking to create a similar lounge as this school in Brooklyn. I was contributing towards such an important part of the design process, and not only did the renderings turn out great but I was also able to be one of the models! It was amazing to see the space of the lounge completely gutted knowing the details of the future changes that would be made. I knew exactly where the wallpaper covered with word definitions would be, and all the tablets and devices that students would be able to use on newly installed carrels to help with literacy. It was also really great meeting students and faculty and seeing how excited they were about their new space. I was able to see the direct impact of a Kurani project through these people during my site visit assisting with the photoshoot.

I am really glad that I had this internship experience. It was the perfect opportunity to see how business roles work in really unique spaces that have the goal of leaving a social impact on communities. I was surrounded by others in the Center for Social Innovation so it was nice meeting entrepreneurs who are so passionate about making an impact on the world. This was the first time that I have interned somewhere with other interns and I loved it. I connected with the other students, learned from them, and worked with them throughout the summer. Danish Kurani was a great boss who definitely encouraged collaboration between all of us interns and also between others in the Center for Social Innovation. He also found it really important to always ask me what I wanted to work on to make sure that I accomplished everything that I wanted by the end of the internship. I would definitely recommend this internship experience for anyone who wants to make a difference in education through learning space design. I now know that I want to work at a smaller organization where I can do marketing, business development, and public relations work while still impacting people’s lives in the future. To help accomplish this, I will continue to take electives that focus on the social development and structure of society such as sociology and Africana Studies. This will complement the hard skills that I will learn in my economics and computer science classes which I will eventually use in a professional setting to positively impact the social constructs of society and make people’s lives better.

I want to thank Mr. William McCalpin ’79 and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for this opportunity and allowing me to make lifelong relationships this summer. I was able to learn more about an industry that I have had difficulty getting exposure to. And I now realize how important it is for me to make a difference in the world through my career in the future, even if it is in an unexpected or untraditional way.