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Every year, we go through the ritual of rounding up some of the newest members of our student body: astute first-year students, who are critical thinkers in pursuit of a dynamic intellectual environment and insightful instruction.

And every year, even as the average overall SAT score of our incoming class (1287) and undergraduate enrollment (1,296 freshmen selected out of 8,126 applications) continue to soar, we marvel at all the ways these gung-ho boundary-pushers descend on campus with a clear vision for their future, ready to take ownership of their education.

Meet two new kids on the block at the College of Architecture and Design: Elizabeth Kowalchuk and Elizabeth Kissell, who first heard about NJIT from alumni of the university. “They emphasized how much they enjoyed their experiences here, and assured me that the community was accepting and vibrant,” says Kissell, an industrial design major and Point Pleasant native. 

Kowalchuk, who’s majoring in architecture and hails from Ridgefield Park, says she chose NJIT “because of its proximity to New York City, which holds a lot of promise for a job within my field.” In fact, it was a family trip to the High Line, a lush pedestrian haven built on an elevated section of the disused New York Central Railroad on the west side of Manhattan, which drove Kowalchuk to pursue an architecture career.

“Everything about the project,” she recalls, “from the history of the train tracks that were repurposed … to the creation of peaceful serenity overlooking the chaos of New York City, made me realize the power that architecture has to make people feel towards, think about and view their surroundings in a completely different way.”

Here, Kissell and Kowalchuk, who are both students in Albert Dorman Honors College, talk SAT scores, campus life at NJIT, spurring creativity — and predict where they see themselves working 10 years from now (the Peace Corps!).

Elizabeth Kissell (left) with Elizabeth Kowalchuk inside the architecture studio.

You’re both Honors Scholars, which means you must be pretty smart. Now’s as good a time as any to humblebrag about your SAT score and high school GPA.

Elizabeth Kowalchuk: I got a 1420 on the SAT, and I had a 3.9 GPA.

Elizabeth Kissell: While I tend not to take too much stock in test scores, my SAT score was 1520, and my GPA was 103 on a 100-point scale.

Nice! Speaking of high school, what accomplishment are you most proud of during that time?

Kowalchuk: Graduating as salutatorian. Being able to address my class and community at graduation is a memory I will treasure forever. 

Kissell: I am most proud of graduating high school a year early. It has given me an opportunity to achieve my goals much sooner and to thrive in a diverse setting this year.

This year’s freshman class hails from 24 states and 30 countries. How will you tap into the NJIT melting pot to enrich your educational experience?

Kissell: Some friends and I have started a book club, where people who otherwise would never have spoken to one another can interact in a friendly setting. I have also joined the Astronomy Club, NJIT’s IDSA chapter and SPECTRUM, each of which lets me meet new people and gain new outlooks on life.

Kowalchuk: I have joined the Art Club and Minerva [the creative writing club] on campus. I also plan on joining the intramural soccer team next year and getting involved in volunteering programs, like Habitat for Humanity.

Volunteering is a way of life at NJIT. What else do you like to do for fun? 

Kowalchuk: I love to work on art, specifically painting. In the past month of college, however, [I’ve] spent most of my time with my new friends, who I met and became very close with almost immediately after coming to NJIT. We have developed a newfound love for playing racquetball since we found the courts in the WEC.

Kissell: I enjoy baking. I’m always up to trying new recipes, especially cakes and cookies. I also play the flute and bass guitar. Music is an outlet that I’ve always found quite relaxing. Reading is also rather wonderful, which my overstuffed bookshelf can attest to.

What's the last book you read?

Kissell: “The Electric Kool-Aid AcidTest”by Tom Wolfe, which is a nonfiction account of the 1960s and 1970s hippie counterculture.

Kowalchuk: I’m currently reading “Firestarters,” by Noah Roselli. I recently gained a newfound interest in poetry, and this book is really inspiring me to extend my art from traditional drawing and painting to writing as well. 

As designers, your inspiration can come from anywhere. What gets your creative juices flowing?

Kowalchuk: Being out in nature really inspires me, which is why I love hiking and exploring so much. I also try to gain inspiration by exposing myself to other forms of artwork.

Kissell: Music is the primary driver in my creative process. With the volume at maximum and my art supplies spread [out] on the floor in front of me, I feel like no problem is too big to take on.

What song did you have on repeat this past summer?

Kissell: "Hunger” by Florence and the Machine.

Kowalchuk: The entire discography of the band Young the Giant.

Kowalchuk puts the finishing touches on a project.

What courses are you looking forward to taking?

Kowalchuk: I’m really excited to progress toward more advanced and specialized studio classes, where I will be further challenged to produce creative solutions to difficult problems with my designs.

Kissell: I’m looking forward to taking industrial design studio the most. It will give me the opportunity to make my sketches and ideas a reality, and will provide me with a concrete way to begin innovating.

What’s your dream project?

Kowalchuk: I aim to work on a sustainable future within the field of architecture, and I would love to work on a project specific to integrating nature and greenery into cities. 

Kissell: Designing prosthetics for amputees that can reestablish sensory perception. Doing so would improve the quality of life for many individuals.

Kissell's abstract design project comes to life.

What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

Kowalchuk: In high school, I was very active in sports, and I was actually a starting midfielder on the varsity soccer team since I was a freshman.

Kissell: I speak three languages: Italian, French and English.

Binge-watching anything good? 

Kowalchuk: My favorite shows to binge at any time are “The Office,” “Parks and Rec” and “Friends,” all of which I have rewatched so many times that, at this point, I laugh at the jokes before they’re even told. 

Kissell: I recently finished binge-watching the fourth season of “Black Mirror.” I’m excited for the fifth season.

Sure, it’s only the first semester of your first year of college. But it’s never too early to look ahead. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Kowalchuk: I definitely plan to be working somewhere in a creative field, whether that’s as a practicing architect, set designer or something else revolving around design, while also continuing my own independent artwork. I also see myself living with [my] family somewhere in New Jersey or New York. 

Kissell: In 10 years, I see myself in the Peace Corps, helping wherever in the world I am able. Afterwards, I hope to work in the nonprofit research field, trying to improve the quality of life for everyone in society.