"I'd like to see more women and minorities in construction simply because I think it's a great place to work. You can drive by and literally see something that you were a part of and be very proud of that."
- Architecture & Sustainable Design
- Construction & Architecture
As a young girl, Ellyn often visited construction sites with her father. She liked playing in the dirt, and most of her friends were boys. Pursuing a career in architecture was a natural fit. After building a hearty resume brimming with industry and leadership experience, Ellyn found her way to Penn College where she’s leading and inspiring the next generation of creators.
TAKING THE LEAD
Q&A with Ellyn
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE ARCHITECTURE & CONSTRUCTION FIELDS?
My dad was in construction and I grew up going to job sites. He constructed water/wastewater plants. If you’d asked me when I was 12 if I’d work in construction, my answer would have been “absolutely not,” but as I grew older and married, I grew more curious. When my husband went to architecture school, I used to go to the architecture library with him, and I fell in love with reading about structures. The book “Home: A short history of an idea” by Withold Rybczynski really drove my passion as he used the written word to describe certain buildings; there were no images in the book, which is extremely strange, but due to my background in journalism, I just connected with it.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A CAREER OUT OF THOSE FIELDS?
My husband had graduated from college and he was OK with what he was doing, but he didn't love it. He did some research and figured out that he was well-suited for a career in architecture. He's very specific and detail-oriented, but also very artistic. Since I was home on maternity leave, I was doing some research for him and I ended up talking to the dean of the graduate program (in architecture.) We ended up having a very interesting conversation. I think that's what planted the seed for my interest in architecture.
WHAT WAS YOUR EARLY WORK IN ARCHITECTURE LIKE?
I worked for several architectural firms and loved being around architects. Often architects are introverted, which is great as they spend much of their time “alone” designing on computers. As that wasn’t my personality – I was much more people-oriented – I wanted to be a part of what was going on, so I gravitated toward architectural marketing. It was a good fit, as I could write well; writing proposals is how firms win public projects, so that’s how I spent my early years in architecture.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT WORKING IN THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT?
I loved working with the team. When you're talking about architects, engineers, and contractors, they're so talented. They're experts in their own right. And when you can bring a group of people together with various areas of expertise and get everybody on the same page and working together for that common good of the project, it's amazing.
WHY DO YOU WANT TO SEE MORE DIVERSITY AND WOMEN IN CONSTRUCTION, ARCHITECTURE, AND ENGINEERING?
There’ve been lots of studies that prove that diversity and diversity of thought are incredibly important. I think more diversity at an institution is great because if everyone in the room has a similar background, they can fall victim to “groupthink,” which can result in bad decision-making. If you bring in people who have different backgrounds, they have different perspectives and they can enlighten you in ways that you couldn’t even anticipate.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE THREE WOMEN AS ROLE MODELS IN THE SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING TECHNONLOGIES?
I think that everyone comes to a situation with a certain perspective, based on their experience. Often those experiences in the architecture, engineering and construction (A/E/C) industry still don’t include a lot of women, especially in leadership positions. When you come to Penn College and see women in leadership positions, especially in an engineering school, it can influence the way you think. Those seeds, the ones that are planted when someone is young, can make a real difference.
Welcoming more opportunities
Ellyn was instrumental in introducing the college's new Bachelor of Architecture program, which will dramatically shorten graduates’ path to professional licensure and significantly broaden their employment opportunities.
Architecture & Sustainable Design
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