Celebrating Women in Kansas City Architecture at NSPJ

Meet A Few of Our Team Members Making an Impact on this Male-Dominated Industry and Hear Their Advice for Up-and-Coming Architects

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 — and we could not do that without the women of NSPJ Architects.

This month, we celebrate them and their achievements.

VP and Principal Architect Cheri Beaver: The Trailblazer

Cheri began her architectural education at the University of Virginia School of Architecture. After two years, she transferred to the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Urban Design to finish her degree. In May of 1977, she earned a Bachelor of Environmental Design degree, graduating “With Distinction”. She then enrolled in KU’s one-year architectural internship program and earned a Bachelor of Architecture degree in August 1978.  During that one-year internship program she was also awarded the A.I.A. School Medal for “Excellence in the Study of Architecture”.

Cheri Beaver was the first woman to work in the drafting room at Nearing & Staats. The only other woman in the office was the secretary/receptionist. At that time, drawings were produced by hand on vellum paper using pencils.  

Cheri noted a culture shift happening in the 1990s, as the architecture field moved to the modern workforce we see today.

The drafting room wasn’t the only place Cheri was the first woman. In spring 2009, Cheri became the first woman to become a member of the Board of Directors at NSPJ Architects with the goal of trail-blazing for women to follow in her footsteps.

For up-and-coming architects and architecture students, Cheri offers two pieces of advice. First, “Honor your own achievements and reward yourself for your successes, even small ones. Second, set yourself apart by practicing hand-sketching – because no one else is anymore.”

VP and Associate Principal Architect Theresa Curtis

Theresa Curtis recalls that when she joined NSPJ Architects in 2001, she was one of five female architects at the firm of about 20 employees. Since that time, the firm has grown to over 60 employees and is currently 58% female and 43% of the management is female. Inspired by coworkers and professors in her architecture program at Kansas State University, Theresa took inspiration from their confidence and authority and strived to gain those qualities over the course of her career.

Twenty years of professional experience has given Theresa the opportunity to develop her voice in a male-dominated industry, mentor and support fellow coworkers, and stretch beyond the typical architectural role to develop operational and management initiatives at NSPJ, which helped her land an official leadership role. She became a Vice President and member of the Board of Directors in 2019.

Theresa offers this important advice for young women interested in Architecture: “Observe those around you that you find professionally effective and that have forged a career path that you find attractive. Ask them questions! You would be surprised how few people ask questions of potential mentors, (and they do want to share!).  In today’s world of evolving workplaces, there are so many ways to define your own success. Women in the workplace face a lot of challenges and issues of balancing work, home life, and physical and mental health and its truly an ongoing journey to find what works and what does not. At the end of the day, you have to define your personal core values and commit to the career path that supports those values the most.”

VP and Principal Landscape Architect Katie Martinovic

Katie Martinovic, leader of the landscape architecture studio, has been with the firm since 2007. Her unique perspective on her work providing a resort-style feel to residential, mixed-use, commercial, and land-planning projects means she’s an in-demand collaborator for architects on the team.

Katie loves that every day is a new adventure in the field of landscape architecture and in the firm, and she acknowledges that this is due, in part, to one important thing.

“I am inspired by all the amazing women at NSPJ who support each other, collaborate, and share their collective knowledge,” she says. “I enjoy seeing every day the amount we accomplish as a team.”

Kansas City Architecture and Landscape Architecture Team Members Talk Design Process

At NSPJ Architects, there are many up-and-coming female leaders rising through the ranks.

These unique viewpoints on the design process and sources of inspiration allow them to lend distinctive perspectives to the teams they work with — and we cannot wait to see what they accomplish next.

Sara Wells, an architect and project manager, says her favorite part of the design process is spending time on the construction site. “Seeing the lines on paper become a real place always makes me happy,” she explains.

Sara noted that she feels most creative and efficient on the floor of her home office “with drawings and trace paper and pens surrounding me, music in the background, and sunshine streaming in the windows.” She also draws inspiration from traveling; a recent trip to Italy served as an artist’s retreat.

New to the firm, architect Michelle Newcome says her favorite part of the design process is concepting. “It’s exciting to throw ideas at the wall and see what sticks,” she says.

Sarah Walls, a landscape architect and project manager, says her favorite part of the architectural design process is watching a design come to life from her imagination, followed closely by collaborating with others to make a unique, exceptional design.

Women Leaders Pursue Excellence at the Premier Kansas City Architecture Firm

With a longstanding tradition of excellence, NSPJ Architects continues to create timeless designs with distinct detail and proportion. Our inspired, holistic, and innovative work requires a cohesive team to pull it off — and we know we would not be where we are today without women in leadership in our industry.

This month, we tip our hats to them and pay tribute to their accomplishments and success. Thank you for inspiring us every day!

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