By Shawnya Meyers

When did you become interested in architecture and why?

I remember being interested in building things and problem solving from a very early age, but I didn’t align those two interests with this profession until late in my senior year of high school when I started to better understand what an architect actually does.

Why did you choose to go to the University of Arkansas?  

Well, I honestly never had dreams of traveling across the country to study, nor was I interested in putting myself or my parents into extreme debt to pursue my education. After exploring a number of regional program options, I was thrilled to discover that Fayetteville had a top-rated architecture program that met all my priorities. Once I discovered that, I didn’t feel I needed to ever look elsewhere. 

What project are you most proud of working on?

I have been fortunate throughout my career to work on a great many projects that I am proud of. Some of those projects have been quite large and prominent, like the Robinson Auditorium in downtown Little Rock or the Arkansas Arts Center, which is currently in design, while others were small and known only to the final users. But each of them has been an opportunity to help shape the built environment and improve the quality of life in Arkansas, and that is what I have been most proud of.    

What are your interests and involvement outside of architecture?

With three children, I have to admit most of my “outside architecture” involvement currently revolves around them and their interests – whether it is running to school or sports events, or just spending time together as a family.

As an architect, what has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

As an architect who also happens to be a woman, and a proud mother of three, I have always struggled to maintain a healthy work-life balance. This profession, at times, becomes incredibly demanding, and we all struggle to meet the deadlines and expectations of clients and fellow team members while still having a life. It has honestly taken a great many years to learn to prioritize appropriately and acknowledge that sometimes one side suffers to satisfy the other – but the real key is giving each their due and keeping the “balance.”

What unique experiences or perspectives do you have that make you stand out as an architect?

I have had great opportunities during my career to be involved in a variety of complex projects, each with their own unique and interesting design challenges. Every one of these has proven to be a valuable learning opportunity that makes me better equipped to deal with the challenges of the next. I approach each new design problem acknowledging that I might not have every answer at the start of the process, but I have the experience and determination to find the solution – having the humility to admit you don’t already possess the answer opens the design process up to a level of exploration that leads to new and innovative solutions.

Who have been your biggest supporters?  

Well, in the early years, I have to say my biggest supporters were my parents. I grew up in a large farm family with high expectations and a strong support system that instilled one belief above all others: If you worked hard you could accomplish anything. During college, I was lucky enough to meet my husband, Scott, who is also a Fayetteville architecture alumnus. Finding a partner in him who understands the pressures and demands of this profession has been instrumental in allowing me the leeway needed to sometimes put work first in order to do this job well.