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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.

23 Comments

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Congrats Shawnda – your perseverance and hard work will pay you big dividends as you travel through life.
I wish you the best!

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Congratulations Shawnda, It was living in Abilene, at the age of 14 when I decide I wanted to become an Architect. I am also a graduate of Texas Tech. Should you need anything please free to contact me.
Best of luck,
Marshall Reid AIA

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Shawnda, congratulations on passing all your ARE’s and being conferred as a licensed architect, and even more so as the first woman architect in Abilene…way to go young lady!
Please contact me at anytime if there’s ever anything I can assist you with in your developing professional career.
I wish you every success in your new professional endeavor.
Regards,
Steve

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Congrats Shawnda! I was actually shocked to read that you are the 1st woman architect in Abilene. I’m proud of you.

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Congratulations Shawnda! That Red Raider Spirit and Tenacity is evident in you accomplishment of obtaining your registration. Good luck in the future!

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Shawnda,

A huge congratulations! I was a mother of three kids and running my own practice before I finally became licensed a little over a year ago (at 37!). Aside from being accepted into architecture school (UT) and then making it to graduation, I had never felt the same kind of achievement (and relief) like becoming a certified architect. Kudos to you for finding your passion and showing your children that goals are worth having and achieving. Good luck in your future endeavors.

Sarah Bullock McIntyre, AIA

Austin, TX

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Hi Shawnda. As an Architect with Abilene roots, I would like to send cheers and congrats.
I managed to cram a 5 year architectural degree program into 7 years after spending 2
at McMurry. James and John White were both classmates at UT and I spent internships
at David S Castle, Boone and Pope and with Tittle and Luther in Abilene. I admire your
Persistence and perseverance in pursuing your dream of becoming an Architect and
wish you every success in Abilene and beyond with your practice. Enjoy!

All the best to you and your family,

Bill Martin AIA
Austin,Texas

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Bill Martin,

Thank you. I had one of the White twins as a professor at TTU. I can never remember which one was which. I am familiar with David S. Castle, I have found may scanned drawings from his time. (texashistory.unt.edu) This may surprise you that not many, if any, of his buildings are on a historic registry list. I know many of the people that are still in town that use to work at Boone and Pope and Tittle Luther. Mr. Tittle knows my name. It can’t be hard since I am literally the only woman at the chapter meetings. We did a fireside chat with him and James Wheeler a few years ago. It was amazing of the stories they told and what it was like being in school. They got to meet so many famed architects at that time.

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It may have taken longer but we all know how bad you wanted this AIA License. You will surely meet seasoned Architects, like myself, that will share their stories about testing and retesting. I know you feel more relaxed now that pressure is gone. You deserve a lot of credit for hanging in there. You studied many late nights and your peers tip their hats and acknowledge your success. Smile big, you deserve it! Big Congrats.

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Congrats Shannon. I too am shocked that Abilene has never had a woman architect.

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Congratulations, I graduated from Abilene High School in 1959,attended The Univ. of Texas and have practiced Architecture in San Antonio since 1965. Please call on me if you are in San Antonio. Jimmy Tittle is an old friend and a great Architect, someone you should have lunch with.

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Ken,
Thank you. I do know Mr. Tittle but haven’t had lunch with him. The AIA Abilene Chapter had him and a few other people do a fireside chat. Hearing his stories of during school and why he got into architecture was wonderful to hear. Jimmy still goes to the office but I don’t work there so I am not sure how often or anything. During the fireside chat he explained how he ended up with the “Playboy House.”

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Congrats Shawnda!
What a great accomplishment!! I know exactly how you feel. It’s been only a few years since I passed my last test, and sometimes I still pinch myself ;). I’m a mother of three boys, I started architecture school when my first son was a toddler, and it wasn’t easy, It took me twice as long to finish school and also to get my license. And my oldest son is graduating from college!

I’m Very happy for you! And I applaud Texas Architect Magazine for writing about you and your accomplishment!

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Great job, Shawnda! I, too, am a working mom in the architectural profession and completely identify with your story. My road to licensure has also been longer than my peers but I salute you for getting it done! Proud of you for sticking with it! Congrats!!!

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congratulations, Shawnda! you are to be commended on monumental accomplishments. being a mother first, and becoming a capital A, licensed architect. now further your example by leading others like yourself toward pursuing licensure and make the world a better place…because that’s what architects do!

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Congratulations Shawnda on your registration ! Go Texas Tech !!

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AIA Abilene has reached a lot of new milestones in the last few years, especially in the number of newly licenced architects, but Shawnda, I think your achievement makes me the most proud. You have worked so hard for our chapter, and have been an integral part of every recent success that comes to mind. I’ve always been proud to call you a friend and a colleague but calling you an architect is the icing on the cake. Congratulations – Onward and upward!

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Congratulations Shannon on your great accomplishment. The profession needs more female architects. Your perseverance to achieve your life’s goal not only sets a good example for your children of pursuing their dreams, but also for others.

Way to go Shannon!

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Congratulations Shawnda,
What a great achievement, all while balancing the greatest responsibility of being a parent. Way to go! I too started my interest in the architectural profession while growing up in Abilene. Enjoyed reading responses from a few people I have had the priviledge of working with.
Best wishes for a very fruitful career.
Sincerely,
Mark Vaughan

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Shawnda,
Congratulations! i’m sure that this experience will be one of many other firsts. Enjoy your accomplishments.
Sincerely
Cindy

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Congratulations, Shawnda!
I just got to read this, and I’m absolutely thrilled for you! I, too, got licensed after becoming a mom, at nearly 38. It shows what great determination, tenacity and, not to mention, fantastic time-management skills you have. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors and look forward to reading more about you in the future.

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