In the Fall of 2017, Gianna Madison had three life-filling roles: full-time student at Dunwoody College, senior technician at RSP Architects, and mother to a 5-year-old.

Gianna Madison

Then, she took on another role, as a scholar. She was awarded a scholarship from the Minnesota High Tech Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Minnesota High Tech Association. The scholarship helped Gianna continue her education and helped her beyond financial support by giving her inspiration.

Gianna was a speaker at both the Bids & Bytes fundraiser for MHTF and the Tekne Awards event for the Minnesota High Tech Association.  She said it was inspiring to see so many people supporting STEM education and encouraging her. It was a humbling experience to be recognized by the STEM community, and to see others believe in her dream.

In the year since then, she graduated from Dunwoody and is now pursuing licensure to become an architect, while still working full-time.

As one of seven children, Gianna learned from her parents the value of hard work and being resourceful. She was inspired to pursue a career in STEM during her high school years. She was able to take elective courses she found interesting, courses such as designing and building solar homes, where she discovered her love for architecture. She further explored her this passion through her career with Anoka County, where she spent over seven years as a space planner and a construction project coordinator.

Gianna initially obtained two associate degrees from Dunwoody, in architectural drafting and then interior design. She also earned a bachelor of business administration and a master’s degree in organizational leadership from the University of Northwestern, St. Paul. When Dunwoody announced a new Bachelor of Architecture program, she decided it was an opportunity she had to pursue. The issue was affording this next step in her education. Gianna began looking for financial options. She heard about the Minnesota High Tech Foundation STEM Scholarship from her college newsletter and submitted an application.

In spring of 2016 Gianna was hired by RSP Architects in its Minneapolis office as a senior technician, where she was working on the remodel of Walgreens stores. Since earning her Bachelor of Architecture degree, she shifted to new projects and is now working on the exterior designs of Target stores. On a typical day, Gianna spends time looking at old store designs and changing them depending on existing conditions/surroundings, needs and a given budget.

How has she managed to balance so many roles? It was challenging, she says. As a woman of color, she has also had to overcome challenges of working in a field historically dominated by white males. She learned to assert her knowledge and remind others of her abilities.

In the near future, Gianna plans to complete the six tests to become a licensed architect. She believes that self-discipline and a studious mindset will help her prepare for those tests. In the long term, she hopes to design low-income housing and multi-family buildings. Giving back to the community is important to Gianna. She believes the people who can’t afford quality architecture and design are the ones who truly need it most.

Authored by Noah Myers, MHTA intern