Home News and Features Features Q&A with Yestermorrow Alumna Mira Lieman-Sifry

Q&A with Yestermorrow Alumna Mira Lieman-Sifry

Instructor Andrew Faust teaches a variety of Permaculture courses at Yestermorrow. Photo by Mike Ridell.
Instructor Andrew Faust teaches a variety of Permaculture courses at Yestermorrow. Photo by Mike Ridell.

Students in the Natural Building course plaster a structure at Knoll Farm in Fayston. Photo by George Soules.
Students in the Natural Building course plaster a structure at Knoll Farm in Fayston. Photo by George Soules.

By The Bridge Staff-

The Bridge: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Lieman-Sifry: I live in Hastings-on-Hud-son, in New York. I graduated Tufts in 2012—did the Yestermorrow semester program the fall after I graduated. I studied civil engineering [at Tufts].

The Bridge: What is your current profession?

Lieman-Sifry: I work at a civil engineering firm in Manhattan. Our projects are mostly in traffic realignments, school safety, designing sidewalks mostly in Manhattan and surrounding boroughs. We are currently working on the redesign on Rockaway Boardwalk in Queens. That was badly damaged in Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The Bridge: Do you think your experience at Yestermorrow helped you get your current job?

Lieman-Sifry: I am not sure if it helped directly, but I think having some knowledge of construction–starting from paper and making it real—helped immensely.

The Bridge: How did you learn about Yestermorrow?

Lieman-Sifry: I got an email from the head of our architecture program telling us about a current student who had just gone through the Yestermorrow program and recommended it. I basically fell in love at first read of that email. I went on to do more research I feel like it really kind of guided my interests my senior year, and then, after doing the semester program, I did the woodworking intensive, and then after that I worked for the instructor from both of those programs. And I still go up to Vermont and visit.

The Bridge: Tell us a bit about the semester program.

Lieman-Sifry: It’s in one studio. You’re there from eight o’clock in the morning until six o’clock, or sometimes much later at night, working on projects, and everything is combined into a holistic approach, into designing, building, thinking about sustainability, and putting those things into use. It’s a very collaborative atmosphere. It’s not at all like a normal, typical lecture class

The Bridge: What was your favorite part of the program?

Lieman-Sifry: My favorite part was that there were only six people in my class. We were able to have a hand in everything—what paint, what facade, what roofing, everything. We were able to split up into groups. Some people would focus on one thing and present to the group and then we would discuss. We would sit in the studio for hours, just talking about each person’s individual ideas and then somehow come to a conclusion that “this is the best conglomerate of everything,” which was really amazing. It was really the first opportunity I had to bring together people from very different backgrounds. None of us had ever built anything before. It was kind of a very new experience for all of us. If you’re in the Montpelier area, go up North Franklin Street, the very end of it, before it turns up the hill, if you come over the crest, and look down the driveway, there is this bright blue house that looks like it’s just stuck in the side of the hill. That’s what we designed and built.

The Bridge: What do you feel makes Yestermorrow unique?

Lieman-Sifry: I think it’s extremely unique that they allow all backgrounds to join the program. The instructors are extremely welcoming and knowledgeable. I don’t think there are many college or postgraduate pro-grams that enable that kind of community to come together and produce what we produced. It’s hard for me to believe when I tell people I was part of this program and we actually did it. There is a community built into Yestermorrow, whether you’re in the semester program or not. People from across the country and international students come in to take these classes. The students leave knowing that not only can they contact their instructor for advice or support, but they can contact really anybody they have met whether that person was in their class or not. I don’t think there are many classes that offer going from concept on paper to building in real life and everything in between. The ability to do it hands-on and working with instructors was an amazing experience.

The Bridge: What is the average student at Yestermorrow like?

Lieman-Sifry: You’re going to find people from all walks of life. You’re going to find the nerd who sat in the library and got straight As in class and you’re also going to find the kid that didn’t go to college. You will find people who are my grandparents’ age or people who are younger than I am who are extremely driven in the sustainable design-build world. A common trait of everybody is that they are welcoming of others’ ideas but also have a very strong sense of their own goals.

The Bridge: Do you have any standout experiences you wish to share?

Lieman-Sifry: I feel like the experience as a whole has changed my path in life. I think I went to college and went to engineering because I was a math-science kid, but was very invested in the physical science of it. I didn’t know that I loved being creative and build-ing things. On any given day, something I will do at work will remind me of a specific moment of the process at Yestermorrow.