Growing up, I always loved creating things, crafting and building. A pivotal moment occurred during a visit to my great uncle's architecturally designed home, where I realized the potential of a career centered on creation. This fueled my interest in architecture at the early age of nine.

Another experience that influenced my path in the AEC industry was my first internship experience during which I delved into the realm of educational spaces, merging my architectural fascination and a lifelong love for learning—nurtured by my upbringing as the child of two dedicated educators.

Additionally, my time at the University of Maryland allowed me to explore the world of adaptive reuse. Discovering how existing structures could be repurposed and revitalized sparked my imagination and aligned perfectly with my values of sustainability and innovation. In a way, the stars aligned, propelling me toward a career where creativity, education, and the
 transformative power of architecture converge.

I probably spent way too much time as a child watching This Old House. I was always fascinated by the craftsmanship and love it took to restore buildings. That fascination has held up throughout my career and I love taking on the challenge of complex projects, particularly when it comes to finding creative solutions to leverage existing buildings and transforming them into dynamic learning environments. I find immense satisfaction in crafting sustainable designs that meet client expectations and positively impact the educational experience for students. Balancing aesthetics, functionality, sustainability, and the evolving needs of the next generation fuels my passion for design in the educational sector.

As a woman in the AEC industry, I have encountered many of the same challenges you will hear other women in the industry reference when working in a predominantly male field, particularly in the construction industry. That said, the industry is evolving thanks to the increased recognition of the value of diversity and inclusion. I have been fortunate to have great mentors, both male and female, who have provided guidance, support, and inspiration throughout my career. At STUDIOS, we have incredible female leaders at all levels, including our board chair, a minority woman, who holds us accountable for living our Vision and Values. I’m grateful to work in a firm that values greater representation and leadership opportunities for women in our industry.

Female designers play a vital role in the AEC industry, particularly when we can bring our whole selves to the table. Our diverse perspectives, creativity, empathy, and resilience allow us to bring a unique approach to problem-solving and innovation in the design process. We often have the unique ability to empathize with clients, colleagues, and stakeholders to better understand needs and concerns, leading to more inclusive and effective design solutions. 

I’ve been fortunate throughout my career to encounter great female role models in many different capacities. Susan Castellan, Vice President at Whiting-Turner Construction, is fearless. She approaches problems head-on with dignity, respect, and empathy

Kristina Leighty, Senior Director at MGAC, embodies empowerment for women and standing up for what is right. I recently worked with her on a complex project with challenging circumstances. She confidently stood up for herself and her colleagues—creating an open and collaborative environment where all voices were heard. 

Amy Gardner, lecturer at the University of Maryland and owner of Gardner and Associates, demonstrates strong female leadership, being true to herself, and empowering others. She has a strong vision and confidently pursues her passions.

What’s been great about my career is the diversity of projects I’ve been involved with—from workplace to multi-family, non-profits, K-12, and higher education. Most recently, I had the opportunity to work with Pennsylvania State University to transform a 1940s former bursar’s office into the state-of-the-art Bellisario Media Center. Our innovative design aimed to foster exploration, create transparency across all majors in the College of Communication, and ignite new interests among students all  while providing academic opportunities comparable to major media markets.

We ensured that the facilities equipped students with the spatial characteristics, software, and equipment they would encounter in their professional careers. The layout facilitated seamless transitions from classroom learning to creative production, collaboration, and focused study spaces.

Even though the project was delivered during the pandemic, we were thrilled to learn it was as active, collaborative, and innovative as we hoped it would be. The buzz that the new atrium created has become a new favorite spot for students across all majors. 

Overall, the project aligned with our goal of creating an environment that is open, collaborative, and entrepreneurial to invite new forms of storytelling and thinking about how students learned and are empowered.

Building Enclosure Celebrates International Women's Day

Part 2 of a 2 part series

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Jacqueline Beckingham Melvalean McLemore Lisa Haude Erin McDannald Ashley Smith Samantha McCormack Rachael Lewis Taylor Starr Stephanie Lafontaine Christine Faverio Erin Carlisle Melissa Strickland Lisbeth Jimenez Ula Bochinska