Celebrating NSPJ’s Women in Architecture

NSPJ Architects has built a long-standing tradition of excellence in service and design, commitment to quality and devotion to create the best lifestyle environments for our clients.  The month of March we will celebrate the women of NSPJ.


Cheri Beaver graduated from the University of Kansas in May of 1977 and became the first woman to enter the then Nearing & Staats’ drafting room in September of that same year.  Achievements of women are becoming more common in the architecture and engineering sphere.  Cheri recalls the 90’s began the culture-shift to the modern workforce we see today.


Becoming a board member in 2009, a long-held desire to be a trailblazer for women to follow in her footsteps had finally been achieved. Cheri’s “most fun projects” are the custom homes, especially the lake homes, that she has designed with Howard Nearing’s trademark traditional style in the designs where one can “see the art remain in architecture.” As a trail blazer for women, Cheri feels strongly about recognizing the mentorship of her male colleagues of Howard Nearing, Stan Staats, Bill Prelogar and Rick Jones (NSPJ).


One of Cheri’s most rewarding projects: a renovation and addition to her own sorority house, Sigma Kappa at the University of Kansas


NSPJ’s Vice President and Associate Principal Architect, Theresa Curtis, recalls that when she joined the firm in 2001, she attributes her sense of confidence and authority back to a few of her women professors at Kansas State University. Seeing females succeed in architecture encouraged her to have a sense of ownership in her work. Of her many accomplishments, she was the third female architect elected to the board.


Theresa says she feels lucky to have been made a board member in 2019 and it is clear that her ambition, leadership, mentoring of younger staff, patience, and unique style of communication are what helped her land an official leadership role. Learning how to be heard in any room is one of her greatest strengths. “You do not want to be pushy. That can come off the wrong way.  You always want to show that you are the expert on what you are saying. That expertise builds trust between you and the client, the contractor, and everyone you work with to achieve your goals and fulfill the desired design.”


Renovation of the historic Power and Light building


Vice President / Principal Landscape Architect, Katie Martinovic, leads the Landscape Architecture studio and has been with NSPJ Architects since 2007. Katie’s work focuses on providing a resort-style feel to residential, mixed-use, commercial, and land planning projects in collaboration with the Architects on the team.  “Every day is a new adventure at NSPJ and in Landscape Architecture.  I could not do it without all the amazing women at NSPJ that support each other, collaborate, and share their collective knowledge.  I am inspired everyday by the amount we accomplish as a team.  I also appreciate the support from all of the men in the firm over the years.  I have been able to grow in my career and as a mother because of it.   3 full months of maternity leave (before that was the norm), paternity leave for fathers to help out mothers, and flexibility in the workday have made me not have to choose between my career and family.  I feel so lucky!”


Luxurious family resort, Lake of the Ozarks


Architect II, Kristin Holtgrew, has enjoyed sketching buildings as far back as age 10. Her father encouraged her to learn about architecture and bought her first drafting table that same year to pursue her interest. The more she learned about the profession, the more she knew it was for her and continued that path, meeting many talented women in the industry at each point along the way. “My female colleagues at NSPJ account for 40% of the NSPJ organization. We represent a wide variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise.  Each of us has a unique set of skills we contribute to our respective project teams and there is a lot of encouragement for continued success amongst us all.  There is something to be gained from each individual whether they have one week of experience or thirty years.”


New multi-family, the Donovan


Designer III / Project Manager, Iris Abramof,  favorite projects she has worked on were the Norman School Lofts and Mission Chateau Senior Living Community. She says this about her co-workers,  “Katie makes the site planning process look like a walk in the park.  Theresa has brought much needed structure to our office as we have grown over the years.  Cody gives life to our visions by creating most spectacular renderings.”  Iris plans a luncheon for the ladies of NSPJ every year for International Women’s Day.


The Mission Chateau front lobby with its beautiful marble mosaic


According to the NCARB, women completing their architecture program have increased 7% over the past decade, from just 35% in 2010 to 42% in 2020. While women and people of color remain underrepresented within the profession, this year’s data suggests that the gradual improvements in early career stages are starting to impact post-licensure career stages—a signal that the profession may be changing, if slowly.  Cheri’s piece of advice for any up-and-coming architects currently enrolled in architectural school: “Practice hand sketching because no one else is anymore.”

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