IWD 2022: The Diverse Perspectives and Unique Influence Moms Have on Design

At Cushing Terrell, we value the diverse perspectives our team members bring to our design work and our firm as a whole. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the contributions of working moms. With the disruption caused by the pandemic on the normal routine of our lives, working moms often found themselves responsible for balancing both work from home and school/daycare from home. As we (hopefully) come out of the pandemic, it’s crucial that we use the lessons learned from this time to help inform a better social structure for all people, but perhaps working moms in particular.

For International Women’s Day 2022, I wanted to hear the voices of other working moms at Cushing Terrell and learn more about the unique lens they bring to our design practice. We posed the question, as a mom, what does this mindset bring to the table as you think about designing the built environment for future generations? We also asked some of our non-design team members how they think being a mom impacts the work they do. Here’s what they shared.

Sarah Berwald | Project Manager and Architect | Minneapolis

“My kids surprise me constantly. Not just with mischief, but with their emerging values and preferences. When I walk into a new space with them, they approach the architecture in ways I can’t anticipate. They’ve taught me that no matter how much I care, I can’t see through someone else’s eyes. They’ve made me a better listener, and a more receptive designer.”

Sarah’s interests lie in historic preservation, healthcare design, and retail design. She has two young sons and an almost 100-year-old home, thus says her life is full of adventure.

Sarah Berwald and son volunteering with Great River Greening as part of a project to plant native seeds and plugs at Lilydale Bluffs in Saint Paul.

Fran Quiram | Project Manager, Architect, and Associate Principal | Kalispell

“People always ask me… Why do you get up so early? I typically start my day somewhere between 3-4 a.m. It’s a beautiful time of the day. No one needs me — no emails, phone calls, or meetings.

“Here’s my why: I have two beautiful girls and a hardworking husband. When starting my career following graduation, I had a vision of what being an architect would look like. After having kids, that perspective changed. You now have two jobs, yet, how does all the work get done? I did not want to have to choose between my career and being heavily involved in my family’s everyday lives — I wanted to do both! Luckily, I work for a company that supported the involvement of family time and after-school activities, recognizing that work did not need to be accomplished solely between 8-5.

Fran and daughters take time for a photoshoot in the Kalispell office.

“I want to show my girls that you can do it all — be a successful employee and a mom, not having to sacrifice one for the other… just a little sleep. Because of this balance, I feel I’m a better architect and mom. When it’s time to be one, it’s focused time, understanding there are times segmented throughout the day and knowing you’re not missing out on one or the other, but fitting it all in. So, here’s to all the working moms and dads who put in a full day’s work, provide support to teachers, and then go coach a local sports team!”

Jennifer Moore | Interior Designer | Austin

“Since my daughter arrived seven months ago, she gives me daily motivation to see the world anew through her eyes — infinite beauty and possibility. I’ve never felt more invested in working alongside people who believe we can build a future where our children can thrive — a world where wellness, connection, safety, and joyfulness are an imperative for all.”

As someone with a significant influence on interior spaces, Jennifer says she’s constantly inspired and driven by the opportunity to shape experience. She strives for a process grounded in listening, collaboration, and human-centered design attuned to the individuality of each client and project.

New momma, Jennifer Moore, now experiencing the world through the lens of making the world an amazing place for her daughter.
Balancing technology with connection via selfies — Melinda and her kids — all smiles.

Melinda Maze-Talarico | Project Manager | Bozeman

“Being a working mom during a stay-at-home pandemic made me not only appreciate flexible spaces, but also flexible thinking.

“Although we dove into technology as a way to keep moving forward, it didn’t take long to realize face-to-face human interaction for adults and children cultivates creativity, compassion, and community. As I consider design for future generations, I now look to more qualitative, interactive experiences that center on collaboration and connection.”

Melinda’s current work focuses on project planning, but in her past lives, she’s worked in the healthcare industry, helping to create systems, processes, and procedures for monitoring contracts, as well as in education where she’s not only served as a math aid, but established a system to efficiently analyze data required to quantify research on “what makes schools safe.”

Ashleigh Powell | Director of Sustainability and Associate | Austin

“In 2002, I heard the term “green building” for the first time. As the daughter of architects, I was intrigued by the idea buildings could serve as a solution to climate change. I went on to pursue a master’s degree in sustainable design and focused my thesis on how the design industry could achieve zero-carbon buildings by the year 2030 — identified by the global scientific community as the year in which buildings would need to eliminate all carbon emissions to help limit planetary warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“In 2012, I became a mom and the significance of 2030 gained a whole new meaning. My son will turn 18 in 2030, and today, that critical milestone is deemed as too late. The Sixth Assessment Report on Climate Change issued by the IPCC in August 2021, declares it’s now unlikely humanity will keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C. Without deep, immediate GHG emissions cuts, we’re on track to breach a 2°C temperature rise. The 0.5˚C difference is critical to my son, his generation, and all who follow.

Ashleigh Powell and her inspiration for designing a better world, son Xander.

“As a mom, designer, and Director of Sustainability, I firmly believe buildings must serve as a central solution to the climate crisis, and that designers must meet this critical moment as visionary leaders capable of synthesizing a range of interests and environmental imperatives into meaningful, compelling, essential solutions. On behalf of my son and younger generations, I’m more inspired and resolute than ever before.”

Nancy Armstrong | Human Resources Analyst | Boise

“As a mom, I’m in the awesome position to perhaps understand more keenly the needs of working moms. Companies know women make up a big portion of the workforce, but don’t always consider the different needs they may have in a society that hasn’t quite figured out an equal division of labor at home, not to mention the needs of single parents. It’s important to understand the impacts of our policies and ensure they benefit families, regardless of what those families look like. That’s where I come in, sharing a mom’s viewpoint and ideas of how we can best support working moms (and dads). It’s always a work in progress, continually learning new things and trying them out.”

Nancy supports Cushing Terrell’s integrations with HR digital platforms, analyzes employee data and metrics, and researches employee-centered policies and programs.

Nancy Armstrong and son, Riley, out for a fun afternoon of sledding in their neighborhood.

Sarah Dykes | Project Manager and Design Professional | Dallas

“Beyond creating healthy buildings for occupants and the environment, I’m compelled to develop quality projects that will benefit the surrounding communities. I’m always thinking about what would excite my family and make us what to visit, play, and learn.

“One of the incredibly interesting things about being a mom at this time is raising the first digital generation; it creates a common ground of shared technology. My children teach me Google slides shortcuts and, and in return, enjoy seeing 3D renderings of Cushing Terrell’s work. Our workplace is more digital than ever and a significant opportunity to share what we do with our dearest fans.”

For Sarah, design is in the family: her grandfather was a principal at Cushing Terrell from the 1950s through the 1980s. She says her mother has fond memories of traveling with him during business development trips. Sarah’s own design work focuses predominantly on commercial, sport, retail, education, and hospitality spaces.

Sarah and kiddos exploring the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.
Christine and her whole, big-hearted family.

Christine Holman | Business Development Specialist | Minneapolis

“As a mother of four children, working through the pandemic altered my perspective on business development and client relationships. Pre-pandemic, it would have been unusual to discuss personal matters in a professional setting. However, while we were physically distanced, I think people became hungry for connection, thus shaping the way we interact today, allowing our personal and professional worlds to intersect.

“Wearing jeans to meetings, responding to clients at odd hours and during the weekends, or meeting up for a playdate with kids are just a few ways the pandemic altered business development — quite different for a profession historically known as a boys club.

“Today, we are so much more flexible and creative in how we interact with others and get the job done, which I think is very positive. I am grateful for a supportive spouse, flexible hours, and a great company that managed the pandemic well. All the other stuff, like juggling motherhood with teaching and working a full-time job — well, that’s the stuff awards should be given out for!”

Ava Alltmont | Project Manager and Architect | New Orleans

“As a designer, I’m always thinking about how someone moves through the world and experiences the built environment, and being a mom provides me with a slightly different lens. It’s usually in terms of small, yet impactful, tweaks to ordinary spaces that my experience as a mom comes into play. Making sure baby changing stations are provided in both women’s and men’s bathrooms. Ensuring outlets are provided in the correct locations in a mother’s room and making sure mother’s rooms are included in a project when appropriate. As a mom, I see those super important details so much more clearly, thus am able to use my experience to create spaces that meet the needs of the people using them.”

Ava says every design decision, big or small, should be thoughtfully considered. Her background is in commercial workplace, mixed-use developments, multi-family, hospitality, retail, and education projects. Additionally, she has extensive experience with historic renovation and adaptive reuse projects. Several years ago, Ava and seven other women architects, started the first Women In Architecture chapter in the state of Louisiana. Today, WIA New Orleans, is a large thriving group of both women and men and the most active committee of the local AIA chapter.

Ava and her girls on a recent trip to Disney World.

Raelynn Meissner | Mechanical Engineer | Billings

“When designing spaces, I always consider indoor air quality and a connection to the natural environment. I want my children (and others) to enjoy spaces that are inspiring and promote good health. Additionally, I always think about ways to design buildings to operate more efficiently to conserve precious natural resources for future generations. This is one of the reasons I love working at Cushing Terrell and having all disciplines under the same roof. I think it leads to the best environment for truly integrated design.

“Being able to share what I do with my children, from problem solving techniques to collaborating with other people, is a great reward. I hope understanding what I do at my job will inspire one of them to pursue a future career in engineering and/or architecture! Whether participating in “Girls in Science” at Montana State University or presenting engineering careers and concepts during school outreach programs, I love any opportunity that allows us to inspire the next generation.”

Raelynn and kiddos enjoying sun and snow in beautiful Billings, Montana.

Raelynn is a project manager and mechanical engineer. She’s also a a founding member of Cushing Terrell’s Green Advocacy Council — a “green think tank” that promotes and integrates sustainable design through education and practice and by bringing together the talents of the firm’s multiple disciplines. Her priorities are to design for energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions, as well as to leave a legacy of environmental stewardship for her children.

To ALL my fellow working moms at Cushing Terrell, the women I’m lucky to know and gain inspiration from in the AEC industry, and women everywhere, happy International Women’s Day!

Shannon Christensen

A principal, project manager, and leader of Cushing Terrell's architecture practice, Shannon helps lead the firm’s overall strategy and growth. As principal in charge of the architecture service sector, Shannon oversees workload, staffing, and professional development for nearly 200 team members throughout the country. Additionally, she is a leader of the firm’s project management initiative, responsible for developing new resources, coordinating training, implementing standards, and ensuring continuous process improvement. Shannon is a licensed architect in 11 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces.