Feature Stories 2024: Apeksha Prasai '25: Embracing change

Junior interior architecture + design major Apeksha Prasai '25 pictured in CVPA
Feature Stories 2024: Apeksha Prasai '25: Embracing change
Apeksha Prasai '25: Embracing change

Junior interior architecture and design major hopes to make home country more accessible

Apeksha Prasai '25 has accomplished a lot at UMass Dartmouth, earning a 3.95 GPA and taking home a $3,500 cash prize for winning 1st place in a Design Lighting Forum (DLF) Student Scholarship Competition. But her path to success wasn't as straightforward as she made it look.

A native of Nepal, Prasai left her family and everything she knew behind to board an 18-hour flight to New England, where she initially enrolled at another university in a different major.

"A lot of individuals fear change," says Prasai. "Instead of lingering on that fear and uncertainty, just take the jump. I went to a very big school with massive classes and professors who didn't know who I was. When I looked to transfer, I was drawn to UMassD's medium-sized campus and small class size.

"Recently, when filling my water bottle, I ran into my English professor from a few semesters ago, who recognized me, and we talked for about 15 minutes. These kinds of interactions and personal moments are what make this campus special."

Interior Architecture + Design

Prasai wasn't just transferring for smaller class sizes and better relationships with faculty – she was also swapping majors to begin studying interior architecture and design (IAD).

"I was certain about my interest in studying art, although uncertain about the specific path within the field," says Prasai. "After conversing with the Chair of the IAD Department, Rose Mary Botti-Salitsky, I immediately sensed a connection and felt welcomed into the program."

UMassD is the only public university in Massachusetts that offers interior architecture and design as a major, and 100% of IAD graduates in the classes of 2021 and 2022 were employed full-time within 6 months of graduating.

"Apeksha is such a wonderful student," says Botti-Salitsky. "She was just in my 'History of interiors and furniture' course – I've been so very impressed with her in past studios. She is a very thoughtful and intuitive problem-solver, and overall an excellent student."

What's exciting about IAD at UMassD?

"I love how creative our program is," says Prasai. "It's this perfect blend of art and technology – we're not only engaging in hands-on work like crafting 3D models and creating perspective drawings, but also mastering technical skills through software like CAD, Sketchup, and Revit. We're not just interior designers, we're also interior architects."

As a student of interior architecture and design, Prasai has a special affinity for UMass Dartmouth's unique and renowned architecture.

"As a designer, I admire UMass Dartmouth's brutalist architecture for its clear purpose. Every piece has an intent, from the raw stones to the pebbles in the concrete walls. The exposed pipes give a unique design feature with additional information into the building's inner workings. I love being able to understand the complexity of how a building is made."

What are you hoping to do after graduating?

"For a less-developed country like Nepal, the last thing people consider when planning a residential home or a commercial facility is accessibility, making life very difficult for disabled people. I'd like to return to Nepal and create more accessible public spaces for all," says Prasai.

DLF Student Scholarship Competition

Prasai got to put her skills to the test at the Designers Lighting Forum's annual Student Scholarship Competition in Boston, where she placed first overall in a PechaKucha-style presentation and won a $3,500 cash prize for her submission, Light & transparency; the essence of design.

Junior IAD major Apeksha Prasai (left) senior IAD major Casey Palm (right), who came in 1st and 2nd place respectively at the DLF scholarship competition.
Prasai (left) and senior IAD major Casey Palm (right), came in 1st and 2nd place respectively at the DLF scholarship competition.

"Coming from such a small country so far away, winning the 1st place prize reassured me that all my hard work and effort amounts to something, and that this is all worth it," says Prasai. "At first, I was skeptical of entering this contest and presenting it to strangers. On the drive up to Boston, I was considering giving up and heading home. I decided to follow through, and participating made me feel confident in myself and my skills. Winning the cash prize was just an added bonus."

This spring, Prasai also entered the IES Boston Student Design Competition, where she finished third overall in a challenge to design a light fixture (luminaire), and was awarded another cash prize. Renderings of her submission are pictured in the gallery below.

Advice for international students

"Don't get too stressed out. Take it one day at a time; don't focus on the overall objective, just make the most of each day. It's easier said than done but step out of your comfort zone; that's where the most amazing things happen. If there's an activity on campus or an opportunity outside campus that draws your attention, be brave and go for it."

UMassD Favorites

  • Professor: Abigail Masi
  • Class: IAD 202: Studio IV: Lighting Application
  • Spot to eat: Wendy's
  • Place to study: The Campus Center
  • Hangout spot: The porch outside the library entrance
  • Event: DIY Paint a Pot last semester in the Campus Center