Shawnda Rixey, AIA, recently achieved a historic feat. Not only did she become licensed as an architect (an accomplishment in and of itself), she also became the first female architect in Abilene’s history. Rixey, a mother of two, works at an architecture and engineering firm. A graduate of Texas Tech, she has been working toward achieving licensure for three years. “I did fail some tests,” she says. “I won’t tell you how many, but I didn’t stop working toward my goal even when it seemed that I would never get there.”
Rixey had been drawing plans and elevations since middle school, but it was only after she decided to pursue higher education that she began to consider architecture as a career. “When I finally decided I needed to get an education to live the life I wanted, the problem I had then was to figure out what to go into. I was interested in clothing design, interior design, and architecture. My bit about how I finally decided starts in a craft store like Michael’s. I was with my children and a friend walking around the store when we got to the aisle with a T-square. I got extremely excited, more so than anyone should have been. I took that as a sign that architecture is what I was supposed to choose. I now know that interior designers also use a T-square, but at that time I didn’t.”
While she has been working toward licensure, Rixey has been active in her local chapter, serving as the TAC advisory trustee and media coordinator. At Texas Tech, she is the first-ever architect member of the Graduate Dean’s Advisory Council. She has also volunteered her time for the last two Advocates for Architecture Day events in Austin.
Rixey’s journey to licensure was different than many of her peers’. “I am 35 years old now, and it took me about 10 years to complete it all. It has taken many of my classmates less time than that, but I am also a mother so I had other responsibilities. I want to get my children to find what they are passionate about and do it. Not everyone is lucky enough to do what they like, much less actually care about. I know how lucky I am.”
Congratulations, Shawnda, from everyone at TxA. Your achievement will provide inspiration for the next generation of architects in Abilene and Texas.