It was the interdisciplinary nature of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, combined with the problem-solving focus of the School of Architecture, that first attracted Robert Nilsen to apply.

“The architecture program advertised a focus on sustainability,” Nilsen said. “I was able to venture further, engage these interests in the Department of Science and Technology Studies, and create the education I’ve always dreamed about.”

His diligent efforts as a student have earned him numerous awards and accolades. The School of Architecture honored him with both the Promise of Excellence in Architecture Award and the Design Award for Exceptional Design. His extracurricular activities earned him the prestigious Norman Waxman Memorial Award for “exemplifying unselfish giving to the school and Institute.” He was able to witness the integration of architecture and the environment in Norway as part of the Robert S. Brown ’52 Travel Fellows Program. And not surprisingly, Nilsen is a Dean’s List regular.

“During freshman year, you go through intense courses, the ‘weed-out’ courses that put you through the ringer to make sure you’re actually into this,” Nilsen said. “I didn’t mind the work. It made me realize that if I put my mind, heart, and work to it, I could definitely achieve something great.”

While at Rensselaer, in addition to developing his ability to construct sustainable environments, Nilsen demonstrated a knack for building supportive communities.

Like many freshmen, Nilsen arrived on campus anxious and a bit nervous. But he quickly found acceptance in the LGBTQ community. “Through laughter and love, my friends became an extension of family that I didn’t know I needed. I will forever cherish the memories and connections we’ve created,” he said.

Nilsen immersed himself in many activities on and off campus. As a Resident Assistant, he encouraged camaraderie in the dorms. In his final year on campus, he expanded his leadership skills, becoming a Resident Director, and he was recognized by the National Residence Hall Honorary for his efforts. He also helped specific individuals as a mentor for the American Institute of Architecture Students.

“My passions become engaged when helping others,” Nilsen said. “In my academics, I’ve been a teaching assistant for four different courses, and have enjoyed overseeing projects develop through my guidance.”

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in architecture, with a minor in science and technology studies, Nilsen plans to build upon what he has learned during his time at Rensselaer. He will attend Harvard Graduate School of Design and study urbanism, landscape, and ecology in pursuit of a master’s degree in design studies. Ultimately, he hopes to continue guiding students by teaching architecture in a way that allows him to combine his multifaceted interests.