Oswaldo Ortega ’05
Oswaldo Ortega ’05 got his first taste of architecture in a class at Brooklyn Technical High School. That experience propelled him to Syracuse University’s School of Architecture, where he not only earned his bachelor’s degree, but took on leadership roles that included founding the Society of Multicultural Architects and Designers and joining the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
“Syracuse University provided a solid foundation for my professional development,” says Ortega. “In the School of Architecture, I developed my understanding of design. And through SMAD and Alpha Phi Alpha, I gained skills in management, team dynamics, and negotiation.”
After graduating from Syracuse, Ortega earned a master’s degree in urban design and architecture from Columbia University. He then joined the Washington, D.C., office of HOK, one of the world’s largest design practices, where he served as project architect for various office buildings, a biotech laboratory facility, and conceptual design packages for international clients.
“I attribute my employment at HOK to SU for two reasons,” says Ortega. “The first was that I was properly prepared to enter the workforce. The second was that there’s a strong alumni base at HOK with a successful track record. The alumni helped ease my transition from academia to the workforce and served as excellent mentors.”
In 2013, Ortega relocated from Washington, D.C., to Chicago to take a new job at Gensler, a global architecture, design, and planning firm. His new position—and a new focus on design—has him feeling energized and grateful.
“Honestly, I’m loving it all probably way too much,” says Ortega, who encountered even more new experiences on a recent business trip to Shanghai, including his first stay in a five-star hotel. “That’s the first time I’ve ever flown someplace where there was a guy waiting for me with a sign with my company’s name on it. It was pretty great.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is Ortega’s desire to mentor others. He often makes himself available to SU students as a way to give back and stay connected to the University. “It’s through staying connected that opportunities for professional and personal growth appear,” he says. “Mentoring is one of the primary reasons I stay involved. Former alumni served as mentors for me, and I continue to provide that for current SU students.”
The networking aspect of his involvement with Syracuse is just as important to Ortega. “In college there was a curriculum, and we knew that as long as we accomplished that list, we would achieve the goal of a degree,” he says. “Once we leave college, there is no set curriculum, and it becomes critical to learn from senior alums and to take advantage of any professional development opportunities SU has to offer.”