Women’s History Month Feature: Trisha Murray, Architecture Alumnus

In honor of March being Women’s History Month, we wanted to highlight Trisha Murray, a 2016 GCA alumni and Project Architect at MA+ Architecture. Trisha is also NCARB certified, an AIA certified architect and a member of Leadership AIA, Class IV. We asked Trisha about who inspires her in her field, why she chose architecture, her favorite things about her job and more!   

Describe your current role:

As a Project Architect, my responsibilities to my clients include providing exceptional design and management services from project programming through project completion and to ensure our client’s vision is fully executed beyond their satisfaction. My responsibilities to my company include managing projects from start to finish, providing design input and expertise, providing clients with excellent service, and most importantly being a team player. In the past three years, I’ve dabbled in every part of the architectural design services, from programming to construction administration, and have worked on a variety of projects ranging anywhere from master planning athletic parks to designing a new 200,000+ square foot school.

One of the schools Trisha has worked on.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

The most exciting thing about my job is the complexity. On any given day, I have to balance multiple projects all of which are in different design phases. Currently, I manage six projects: three in construction administration, two in design development/construction documents, and one in schematic design. Each of these projects have different levels of interaction with clients, consultants, contractors, and team members in our office – and the Architect (that’s me) is in the center of all of these groups managing and coordinating all parties involved to make sure projects are functional, coordinated, meet code requirements, on schedule, within budget, and execute the client’s vision. (Also, the nice thing about getting to interact with multiple people every day is getting away from my desk – however, there are times where I wish I can just sit down at my desk and work without getting interrupted.) I would like to add that, even though the complexity of my career is what really keeps me on my toes and excited about my job, witnessing a project that I’ve design on paper get built in real life is one of the coolest feelings ever.

Describe your day-to-day:

I don’t usually have a typically day-to-day routine – mostly because each day leads to unexpected changes which can arise from the questions and needs of our consultants, contractors, clients, and even other colleagues in our office. I can probably argue that I have a typical “to-do” list but the order of tasks fluctuates with events throughout the day and their priority level.

With that said, here’s a look yesterday’s schedule:

7:00a – Arrived at work, poured a bowl of cereal, and filled my glass with water (yup! I said water not coffee, crazy right?).

7:00a-7:30a – Said good morning to my fellow colleagues, ate my cereal, checked unread emails and reviewed and prioritized my to-do list.

7:30a-12:00p – Prepared information and attended Owner/Construction meeting for Project #1 at 9:00a. Walked through project’s construction site to observe progress with the contractor and coordinate and in-field questions.

12:00p-1:00p – Went home to eat lunch and play fetch with my 3-legged pup (I live 5 miles from my office which is fantastic).

1:00p-2:30p – Reviewed project submittals for conformance for Projects #1, 2, & 3.

2:30p-3:00p – Celebrated Colleague’s birthday in office with cookie cake.

3:00p-3:30p – Attended design meeting for project #4.

3:30p-4:30p – Worked on Project #5 construction documents.

4:30p – Said goodbye to colleagues, hit the gym, and enjoyed the rest of my evening.

What made you want to go in to your respective field?

I’ve always known I wanted to be an architect ever since I was a little girl. I can’t pin-point the initial reason why I chose to pursue this profession, however, I’m sure Lincoln Logs, Legos, and my dad’s wood scraps played a huge part. I did want to be a veterinarian when I was 8 and then I realized I would have to put down cute and adorable animals and I just didn’t have the heart to do that – so architecture it was!

What is something that inspired you as a student or early on in your career?

The most inspiring moments in my career are witnessing the joy and appreciation on my clients’ faces when projects are completed. The process of designing and constructing a building can be a long a rigorous task for not just us, as Architects, but also our design teams, our contractors, and our clients – especially for projects that take over a couple of years to complete. It’s always a wonderful feeling to finish a project. But really, the best part for me is seeing my client’s eyes light up when they finally can see their project coming together – knowing that we can affect others in such a positive way by providing them with a building that suits their desires is absolutely inspiring.

Who is a woman that has inspired you in your specific field?

Maya Lin would be a woman who inspired me early on in my architectural career. As a high school student, I began learning more about the architectural profession and I came across Maya Lin. Two things inspired me most about her: one, she made such an impact with her design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial due to its simplicity but yet astounding symbolism which taught me that each project requires thorough planning and out of the box solutions can be empowering; and two, she created this project as a college student which gave me hope that even non-licensed architects can make a big difference on the built-environment which further fueled me to be the best I could be in my college career and future profession.

What experiences at the Gibbs College of Architecture contributed to your success?

Trisha in her fifth-year design studio.

Being involved at both the student and administration level. During college, I held leadership or member positions in multiple organizations like American Institute for Architecture Students (AIAS), Design Build Society, and the Construction Student Association (CSA). I also was a representative on the GCA’s student council board and a Student Ambassador for the College. Moreover, I collaborated with students from other disciplines, like construction science or landscape, to compete in various design competitions hosted by the GCA or national organizations like the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) and American Institute of Architects (AIA). Overall, getting involved really helped shape me as a leader and has pushed me towards a successful career.

What is one of your favorite memories from being a student in the College of Architecture?

My favorite memory would be the hours spent playing cards and games in studio (not during class hours, of course) which fostered strong friendships with my peers – most whom I still speak with on a regular basis to this day.

What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to Architecture students or recent grads?

To Architecture Students: Enjoy your time in college! College is not just books and classes and grades – it’s about experiences too. I was a scholarship student with out-of-state tuition so I understand how grades are a huge impact on your college career. However, spend time away from studio, take electives outside your degree, sign up for clubs and field trips, don’t stress out too much, don’t pull all-nighters, and enjoy it!

To Recent Grads: Have a vision, take risks, roll with the punches, and be resilient. You are the only person that can prevent you from achieving your goals. Working in a team environment is all about building trust. If you want to be able to manage and design projects on your own, then volunteer for the small boring projects and tasks with enthusiasm and execute them flawlessly. The person who is handing you tasks can tell the difference between someone who wants to improve and someone who is just there to get a paycheck. Once you gain trust, you’ll find quickly that you can ask for bigger projects and you will move up that ladder must faster than your peers. Your career is what you make of it.

What advice would you specifically give to current and future female students who are interested in architecture? 

My biggest piece of advice to female students would be to be confident and resilient but also humble and kind! Architecture has always been a male-dominated field and women will continue to face adversity when working with “old-school” thought processes (which unfortunately are still found in the industry today). Be confident and friendly, but most importantly don’t set limits for yourself and you will find that doors will open for you.

A fun side fact – I received my Architect’s license in 2018 and was invited to attend the (first-ever) 2018 licensing ceremony for Oklahoma, hosted by the Oklahoma Board of Architects, and more than 50% of newly licensed Architects were women! Go us!