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Architecture graduate student makes a play for her passion

After beginning her professional career in sports broadcasting and reporting, Amber Kountz pivoted to chase her dream of becoming an architect.
Amber Kountz
Amber Kountz will graduate with a master’s degree in architecture.

Amber Kountz didn’t grow up in the world of architecture, but a field trip taken during a summer program in elementary school piqued her interest in the field.

“I remember seeing a physical model in one of the office lobbies and being in awe,” she recalled. “I got inspired to start building models at home and for school projects. From then on, I knew I wanted to be an architect, but I didn’t believe it could one day be a reality.”

So, after she and her sister were raised in Connecticut by their parents, Kountz attended the University of Connecticut and earned a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Having an interest in sports, she used her communication degree to work for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Films, where she had the opportunity to work on the Michael Jordan documentary, “The Last Dance.” In addition to being an on-camera reporter for local news and sports, she was a boxing commentator for Madison Square Garden Network, DAZN, and ESPN.

Although she worked in sports media, Kountz still carried that desire for architecture. Without knowing anyone in the field or growing up around it, she said it was difficult for her to chart a path to get there. She decided to attend architecture lectures at Columbia University and Yale University after work, and slowly learned what it would take to become an architect. Subsequently, she decided to follow her passion and apply to the University of Miami School of Architecture.

Kountz visited the campus and met several students and former graduate director, Allan Shulman. With her architecture goals in mind, she chose the University for her extended studies. However, she started graduate school during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After spending the first year attending classes remotely, Kountz moved to Miami for her second year. On her first day, she said that she walked into the studio, made a formal introduction, and sat down. She said it felt as if she had been sitting right next to the other students for the past year.

“The conversation continued with such fluidity that the bond we formed through laughter, tears, and anger transferred through a computer monitor,” she said. “And that tight-knit community of students reflects the faculty and staff at UM. I can easily reach out to anyone of my instructors for advice and guidance. I always knew I had a support system behind me. That was vital for someone without a background in architecture and no family or friends based in Florida.”

Kountz has been active on campus and in the community throughout her time at the University. This year, Dean Rodolphe el-Khoury nominated her to be on the board of the Graduate Activity Fee Allocation Committee and represent the School of Architecture. She also has built a relationship with the University’s Institute for Data Science and Computing. She is working with the institute to find ways artificial intelligence can be used to detect emotions within an architectural space and to adapt accordingly.

She also has been invited to numerous roundtable discussions on campus with visiting and prospective professors. Kountz was awarded the Gensler Rising Black Designers Scholarship and the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMA) Miami Diversity Scholarship. She worked with the Black Architects in the Making group to assist in displaying student work at an exhibition in Orlando. And, as a member of the University’s NOMAS chapter, she helped with the UTrailblazers interactive exhibit initiative, which debuted on campus in the fall.

Last year, Kountz served as secretary for the student organization Women In Construction. All her extra-curricular activities were in addition to being a full-time student and working full time both for the University and outside of school. She will graduate with a master’s degree in architecture.

“My goal is to one day wake up in a home where I developed the property, designed the building, and managed the construction,” Kountz said. “When I head downstairs for a cup of tea, I will open an article in Architectural Digest or another architecture publication and read that one of my classmates’ designs is being honored internationally.”