Dunwoody College of Technology is pleased to announce that this year’s student speaker for Commencement will be Bachelor of Architecture graduate Gianna Madison.
Madison is a member of the College’s first Bachelor of Architecture graduating class.
This is not her first Dunwoody degree, however. After watching an older sibling earn a degree with the help of Dunwoody’s Youth Career Awareness Program (YCAP), Madison decided that a project-focused education was for her. She too successfully applied to YCAP and was able to earn a two-year Architectural Drafting & Estimating Technology degree in 2006.
At around the time Madison was graduating, Dunwoody launched an Interior Design program. Intrigued by the idea of focusing more on design, Madison decided to continue on at Dunwoody for an additional two years to earn an associate’s degree in Interior Design.
Following graduation, Madison worked as a Construction Project Coordinator for Anoka County. In 2014, she learned about another new Dunwoody program—a Bachelor of Architecture. Just three more years of school would transform her existing two-year year architectural drafting degree into a Bachelor of Architecture, allowing her to pursue the path to become a licensed architect. She had always wanted to be an architect and was already sold on Dunwoody’s approach to education.
This time, though, she would be going to school while working full-time. More importantly, she was now the mother of a toddler and was determined to be there for her daughter as much as possible.
Balancing all those roles wasn’t easy, but Madison has made it work.
“Sometimes I have to spend less time with my daughter in order to work late, sometimes I have to take a day off of work in order to complete a project, or sometimes I have to set homework aside over the weekend in order to attend a dance performance for my daughter,” she said. “In the end it is all about choosing what takes priority, at that moment, and why. The most difficult decision that I have had to make is giving up time with my daughter, which weighed heavy on me, but I have found it comforting to remind myself this isn’t forever, and I am doing this so that I can build a better future for my family.”
One thing that helped was receiving scholarship support, including being named a Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Scholar, as well as being able to participate in the Women in Technical Careers (WITC) program, which also offered a peer support network.
“The dynamic of the WITC group has been uplifting,” Madison said. “I was able to meet and be around other likeminded women — some of who faced similar obstacles — and get support on an ongoing basis.”
She also enjoyed her classes, including interacting with instructors, fellow students, and industry professionals.
“I have enjoyed being able to be a part of a team that has designed and built projects that are still standing today,” she said. “I have also appreciated being able to learn from instructors that are experts in the field of architecture.”
Madison’s favorite studio project was one located in a highly sought-after part of South Minneapolis.
“The project site was no longer affordable for the individuals who have lived within this community, even though, according to U.S. Census, most people were employed and had a college education,” she said. “Not only did this project address affordable housing and design, it also addressed common challenges that are currently present in our communities.”
According to Madison: “the most critical, yet fundamental, elements of this project included demographic research, which proved that people are not losing their homes because they are ‘lazy’ (as some would describe this community). In fact, this community is made up of the working middle class. Some individuals even work a second job just to make ends meet. The takeaway is that it is important to understand the bigger picture when it comes to building.”
Madison currently works at RSP Architects as a Senior Technician, where she is part of the Target/National Retail Team focusing primarily on Target exterior store remodels. She is excited to take the rest of the steps needed to become a licensed professional architect (including six exams!) and hopes someday to open her own firm that provides housing and related resources to low-income families.