By Laura Thomas
Hello All: I'm Laura Thomas and since I'll be doing these blogs for the next year, I decided that I should introduce myself, tell you a little bit about me, work that I have done and where I hope to be in a year if I can manage to survive this semester.
I was born and raised in Jacksonville, IL and due to family influence I became intrigued and familiar with civil and mechanical drawings. Some of my first memories are going with my father to the water plant for hours. To occupy myself I had the city's water distribution plans to look at and graph paper to draw on. Like a normal girl I drew houses, but in floor plan views. My grandfather was a teacher in a diesel school, a welder and a self taught farming engineer, who manipulated farming equipment because according to him, "It should have been built this way in the first place." He had several articles published in farming magazines and some of his design ideas were used throughout the industry. Other childhood influences were playing with Tinker Toys and building houses with Block City scale model construction sets.
I was fortunate enough that my high school had a drafting program. I took every course offered and became an teacher's aide my junior and senior year. I took a year off from school, then went to Lake Land Community College to complete all of the core classes before transferring into the 3 year program at SIUC in 2000. In 2003, I graduated with my BS in Architecture and went searching for a job. This was the beginning to several years of frustration.
I began my career with HARK Group out of Decatur, IL as a part time intern. Projects included Pirates Lagoon Water Theme Park, that never got built and Wabash Crossing, a Hope VI low income housing development. When work got low at the firm I was offered a contract job as an assistant superintendant for CORE Construction out of Morton, IL to help with the completion of the first phase of Wabash Crossing since I was familiar with the project. With the first phase completed, I found work as a office manager and cad tech for a seller / installer of Superior Walls out of Springfield, IL whose product was precast concrete foundation walls for crawl spaces or basements. Leaving there, I accepted a job with HUFF Architectural Group out of Springfield, IL where my focus was on 10 Year Health Life Safety Surveys for schools located all over Illinois. A year later, work got low and I was one of four laid off. A few months later, I started at Architectural Expressions out of Forsyth, IL and was assigned to be part of the Decatur Memorial Hospital project team. Projects included a new cafeteria addition, a cancer care center and lots of interior remodeling work. This was my favorite job but due to several issues, work got low and I was one of seven laid off. With few firms hiring at the time I accepted a contract job with Ferry & Associates out of Springfield, IL doing a new 210 patient bed nursing home facility to be constructed in Peoria, IL. The task was only to take the project up to the construction document phase before handing it over to the architects of record for them to complete the project. Unemployed again I went to a bar. Sitting there with my friends, this guy walks up and starts talking to me. Ended up that he was an electric and automation engineer at Nestle in Jacksonville, IL and was in need of a project manager and cad technician. A few weeks later I was working as part of their engineering department. There I completed a plant relighting project and was part of the team to replace all the equipment on the second floor. I left the wonderful smell of the Coffee-mate creamer factory to come back to SIUC to get my Masters Degree.
As you can tell I have quite a history of places and types of work over the last 8 years. This has been good and bad. Good because I have diversity and a lot of wonderful experiences that many people don't get to have. The bad is that I have never been able to settle down, moving from job to job every year or so takes its toll. It also means that I worked for places that don't count towards IDP so my hours are lacking. I wouldn't be able to become licensed by the deadline restrictions put into law after I received my BS so I had no choice but to come back to get my Masters in Architecture in order to become a licensed architect.
The present has me at SIUC, working as a research assistant for Shannon McDonald. When I graduate, my goal is to obtain a permanent position in a firm out west, preferably in Wyoming, Alaska, Washington or Colorado. My career will focus on the health care industry which is also the focus of my thesis.
Hope this introduction has helped provide some insight into my background and experiences. I've attached a few pictures of some of my project work.