Samantha McCloud, 28

“As an architect, I am passionate about the built environment and its power to affect positive change. Small changes in a neighborhood can have a very big impact on the local culture and social dynamic of a place.”

In their own words
am a 28-year-old licensed architect and Associate at GastingerWalker&. Success is an evolving goal that is personally defined, and I most value the type of success that I can share with others. Architecture is a collaborative field, and through this lens, I choose to see personal achievement as a production of many moving parts. Being an architect isn’t just a vocation, it is a passion, and an ever-unfolding journey.   

In college, to my great surprise, I was offered a scholarship to be a coxswain on the K-State women’s rowing team. As a small, soft-spoken girl, I had never imagined I would be a collegiate student-athlete in highly competitive and aggressive company. To my fortune, rowing is a sport that recruits the very tall and very small. While my role as coxswain was not to row the boat, I had to quickly master how to control the boat. The nature of the sport revealed something I take to heart today: a racing victory goes to the team but a loss is charged to the coxswain. Through observation, communication and coordination, I could transform the boat into a torpedo of powerful unison. However, if I stumbled in any of these areas, I brought the whole boat down like dead weight. Learning how to lead, how to lose, and how to win are not easy lessons, but the challenges are well worth the rewards. In my senior year, I shared victory with my team, winning Bronze in the C-USA Conference and winning Gold in the SIRA Championship Regatta. Our strong season contributed to the approval of a new rowing facility on the K-State campus, where future generations of rowers can now train and further improve their athletic strength and technical skills.

Building on my lessons from rowing, my approach to success in architecture is to always strive to inspire others and to add my contribution to their own talents and successes. Whether it’s in service to project clients or through volunteerism in the community, I strive to contribute as much as I can to others’ success/improvement.

As an architect, I am passionate about the built environment and its power to affect positive change. Small changes in a neighborhood can have a very big impact on the local culture and social dynamic of a place. Whether it’s a coffee shop or an urban park in the city, people spend their lives in places to which they have access. Seeing and understanding how to improve that access or those places is exhilarating.

KC story
I was born in Prairie Village, KS, attended St. Ann’s Catholic Elementary School (K-8) and graduated from Shawnee Mission East High School. I lived in the same neighborhood throughout my childhood, experiencing the house evolve from a one bedroom, to a two- to a three-bedroom home. As a college student, I lived on the K-State campus in Manhattan, KS as well as abroad in the Philippines and in Italy before returning back to Kansas City after graduating with my Masters of Architecture. I currently live downtown in the Quality Hill District and have developed a great sense of pride in Kansas City as a whole. I enjoy walking to work and taking the streetcar to restaurants and attractions during the weekend. The rapidly-developing urban core has been an exciting adventure. I look forward to being a part of its continued progress.

My mother is an immigrant from the Philippines, moving to the US in 1988. I am a first generation citizen on her side. Growing up in a dual-culture home and living in both countries of my nationality as an adult has improved my capacity for understanding how people’s perspectives can be strongly influenced from their environment and local culture. I have experienced forms of racism on both sides of the spectrum. I have experienced growing up physically different from the majority as well as living in a country where I am physically similar to the majority. I have experienced living in a country as a citizen and not knowing how to speak the language (Philippines). I have experienced growing up in a safe and established neighborhood (Prairie Village) as well as living in poverty as a national standard (my “middle-class” residence in the Philippines was in a squatter neighborhood without sanitary plumbing or trash collection). I have experienced how socioeconomic differences can isolate people from one another as well as inspire people into action.

A day in the life
As an architect, my daily role can change dramatically within a single week. However, a few things I do every day include walking my dog, walking to work, and appreciating my city. I am also guilty of enjoying happy hour a couple days of the week.

In the office, day-to-day responsibilities vary from traveling to another city for a project survey, meeting with project stakeholders and developing project documents to leading project coordination meetings and defining project goals. It can be a very individual role as well as very team-based. There is the need to be adaptable, accountable, and approachable.

Outside of the office, two or three evenings a week are typically dedicated to community service in some way. Those nights may include board meetings for various nonprofit groups, discussion meetings for church groups, or smaller task force meetings with targeted goals in mind. I enjoy volunteering to catalyze others and to improve my capabilities to be a resource.

I shoot for win-win scenarios. There is great success to be found in helping others. I enjoy being seen as a resource and a friend.

I am proud of my efforts in helping others’ to be successful, spreading knowledge, and bringing people together in an impactful way. I am serving and have served on several boards of directors (American Institute of Architects, 20/20 Leadership, Children’s Feeding Program) whose missions are to foster leadership and success in others.

Recently, with the mission in mind to connect people of diverse experiences through the American Institute of Architects, I developed the PIERS mentorship program with the organization’s staff, bringing architects at different stages in their career together to create a dynamic team approach to mentoring, and founded the Equity in Architecture committee to promote diversity inclusion and advocacy for minorities and women in architecture. For both of these groups, providing the structure to connect and discuss industry and anthropological issues has proven very impactful for the architectural community.

I am only 4 feet and 8 inches tall. Many people are surprised when they meet me, and it is likely readers would be surprised too. Just imagine a 4’ 8” tall woman in her twenties leading a team of strong men in their forties around a construction site… quite funny! I am proud of my small stature and it has many advantages. I have the element of surprise. It also allowed me to compete in collegiate rowing. I am currently writing a book about lessons learned from rowing and how it has translated into professional leadership.

Pro tip
A person is never too old or too young to be impactful. Something as small as looking someone in the eyes and smiling is very powerful. Acknowledging another’s relevance/gifts in the world is really meaningful for that person.

For personal success, I would say always try. Many have come to me asking how to do something or if something be a good idea or if I think they can do something because someone else said they couldn’t. I always respond to these questions: “Try it and find out. Try really hard.” If you can do something well and love it that is great; if you don’t do something so well but love it, that’s still great. Keep trying and you’ll get better. If you’re great at something and you hate it, well then you have some evaluating to do. If you don’t do something well and you hate it, then you know you’ve tried it and it’s not for you. Trying something new will always surprise you. I constantly surprise myself, and all I do was go into something with the attitude that I will try.

nil volentibus arduum:  (nothing is arduous for the willing)
audere est facere (dare to do)