Current City: New York City, NY
Hometown: Charleston, SC
Joined Alpha Rho Chi in 2014, started colony in 2012
Bryan Perez: Drew, let’s start off with a little background. Tell me a bit about yourself and how you got involved with Alpha Rho Chi.
Drew Bell: Well I am originally from Charleston, South Carolina. My dad was in the Air Force Reserve and my family moved to Warner Robins, Georgia when I was young, so I mostly grew up in Warner Robins. For college, I was considering engineering or business for my major, but I had always wanted to do architecture, and I knew if I didn’t try it, I would always wonder what life would have been like. I wanted to go to a big university, but the big schools I got into didn’t have architecture. So I went to Southern Polytechnic State University (SPSU) — now Kennesaw State University — just outside of Atlanta. I met Evan [Goodwin] and was lucky to be a part of the founding class of the Polyidus Chapter.
BP: That’s awesome! What was it like being in the first initiated class? And what made you interested in joining Alpha Rho Chi?
DB: Evan first told me about his idea to bring an Alpha Rho Chi chapter to Southern Poly when I was starting a cross country group at the university. It seemed like a really ambitious plan, but he was supporting me by showing up to the cross country group and scouting out places to run, so I wanted to show the same support for him getting the colony established and then the chapter initiated. He first told me the plan when I was in 3rd year and I was initiated in the Spring of 2014 only a couple weeks before graduation. At our school, the different years didn’t talk to each other much because they were in separate buildings each of the first two years. I knew that Alpha Rho Chi would help connect the underclassmen and upperclassmen at SPSU.
BP: Drew Paul Bell has become a brand, particularly with your Youtube channel where you make videos giving advice on various topics related to architecture. What inspired you to start making videos?
DB: I started watching TedTalks freshmen year. I was inspired by these speakers — many of whom were entrepreneurs, networkers, and business people — and they all spoke as experts in their fields. I got hooked — I bought their books, read their blogs, and followed their channels. I could translate their experiences and advice to architecture and my experiences in architecture school, and that’s when I thought, “where is the person talking about architecture online?” and I couldn’t find them. But by my fourth year, I realized that I could be that guy online talking about architecture.
As a fifth-year student, I would talk to first- and second-year students who I knew through the Polyidus colony and I realized that I had a lot of value to offer them as a fifth-year. I realized that I would always be five years ahead of them on the assembly line, so to speak. So I knew I could provide value to that cohort of architecture students all across the Internet for the next several years. I remembered what it was like to be a first- and second-year student and listening to the upperclassmen give advice on how to maneuver through school, the design process, and certain professors. So I wanted to create videos online where I would give the mentorship-type of advice that I wish I had gotten when I was in school and starting out in the profession.
BP: Tell me a bit about the process of making one of your Youtube videos and how often do you make them?
DB: I get inspiration for the content from younger students, sometimes from talking to younger Polyidus brothers. Once I have a topic, the video usually takes about two days. The first day I record and the second day I edit the video and then upload it. When I first started making videos I would upload about one video per week, but these past few years I was focused on getting my license and moving to New York, both of which I did in 2018. I have adjusted to life in New York, and I am trying to get back into posting videos, posting about one video a month.
BP: You’re making these videos to help others, but how has this process affected you? Any big takeaways or “a-ha” moments?
DB: It has definitely helped my verbal presentation skills. When I first started, my screen presence was terrible, and I would speak in incomplete sentences, because I would speak the same way I thought inside my head. After a lot of practice on camera, I have developed my speaking skills significantly. It’s helped me organize my thoughts better and be a better communicator.
In addition to that, I have also developed some thick skin. Most of the comments I get are very positive, but I do get some negative comments, and I’ve had to learn how to deal with that. I definitely consider that an advantage. You can’t care too much what other people think. Nothing you create is going to be loved by everyone. I think this is especially important for an architect to come to terms with. When you design a building, there is always going to be a neighbor with a bone to pick, or a critic who is dissatisfied. By dealing with a few haters online, I have learned to let that roll off my shoulder. Nobody has done anything big in the world and not been criticized for it. As long as you have a moral compass and you feel good about what you’re doing, you can’t let negative criticism from others affect the choices you make.