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Female architect association hosts conference

Cristina Sanchez | Friday, April 12, 2013

 

Notre Dame alumnae gathered in Bond Hall to celebrate 40 years of coeducation at the School of Architecture on April 5 and 6. 

The alumnae were invited by the Student Association for Women in Architecture (SAWA), which hosted “Beyond the Drafting Board: 40 Years of Women in Architecture at Notre Dame,” a conference showcasing the achievements of female architecture graduates. 

Fifth-year architecture students Kaitlin Veenstra, SAWA president, and Rebekah Wierson, SAWA vice president, organized the conference under the guidance of professor Aimee Buccellato, Veenstra said. 

The conference was open to students, faculty and guests, featuring five speakers who reflected on their experiences at the School of Architecture and recounted their contributions to the field, Veenstra said. 

“We wanted women from different decades to speak at the conference,” said Veenstra

Martha Lampkin Wellborne, a 1975 Notre Dame graduate and executive director of Countywide Planning, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority delivered the keynote address, Wierson said. 

“Wellborne and only one other student were the first female graduates of the School of Architecture,” said Wierson.

Wellborne’s work has included both individual building designs as well as large-scale projects, Wierson said. She said Wellborne is credited with the Los Angeles surface transit project, which led to the creation of the countywide Metro Rapid bus system. 

Another prominent guest speakers was Melissa del Vecchio a 1994 graduate and the principal architect of Notre Dame’s Stayer Center for Executive Education, Veenstra said. 

The speakers engaged in a career panel discussion April 5, Wierson said. She said the roundtable discussion provided setting for architecture students and professionals to interact with one another. 

“It was a great opportunity for female architecture students to network and learn how to build their careers,” said Wierson

Veenstra said the purpose of the discussion was to help students find the right places for them in the architecture profession.

 “The purpose of the panel discussion and the conference in general was to provide students with advice on how to find their niche in architecture,” Veenstra said.

Wierson said the main focus of the conference was the experiences of the alumnae speakers.

“The goal was for the speakers to talk about their journeys. They just followed what they love to do,” said Wierson

Both Veenstra and Wierson said they hope the success of the conference will lead to increased student involvement in SAWA

“The conference was a good way to catapult the club into the future,” said Wierson.

According to the club’s website, SAWA was founded in 2007 by students Mollie Ponto and Danielle Potts through a grant from the Beverly Willis foundation. The club was created to promote the presence of women, gender equality and diversity in both the design and construction industries, according to the website.

SAWA hosts lectures, sponsors professional development workshops and fosters inter-class mentoring relationships between students, Veenstra said. She said the club is open to all students, regardless of gender or major. 

“The club is not exclusive to women,” Veenstra said. “It’s used to talk about issues that professionals face in balancing career-building and family life. We invite anyone to join.”