Adding Up…to a Career in Architecture
MAF 2021 Scholarship Winner Jenna Atkinson


For Lawrence Technological University Master of Architecture student Jenna Atkinson, the decision to study architecture is one that simply added up.  “I started considering architecture as a career while applying to college during my senior year of high school,” she said. “I enjoyed mathematics and art, and visualizing space by memory is easy for me. It might sound odd, but a lot of my childhood memories are more about the space I was in than the actual event taking place. The more I thought about it, my gut feeling said architecture was the perfect career for me.”

She adds, “The most enjoyable part about architecture is using problem-solving skills when designing a space. There’s so much to consider and though it may sound daunting, it’s really enjoyable for me to discover how many ways an environment can be organized.”

Jenna is the recipient of MAF’s 2021 Katherine and John Banicki Scholarship.  Her leadership, both at LTU and University of Michigan, where she received her undergraduate degree, were noted by the MAF Scholarship Jury as among the reasons leading to her award.

“Winning this scholarship means that I can continue helping organizations find ways to combat educational inequalities, be a part of rebuilding communities, and spread their message so others can learn,” said Jenna. “With it, I’m supported to learn about how architecture and design contributes to these causes.”

As part of Jenna’s scholarship application criteria, she was required to submit a portfolio, which included hand drafting projects; professional work including workplace tenant improvements and residential renovations; and undergraduate projects, including those that demonstrated her interest in designing for non-profit organizations. This included Reading Heroes on Wheels, a mobile learning center project in which she collaborated with Single Family Living (SFL) of Detroit, an organization that supports single-parent families emotionally and financially.

“After working with SFL during my Fall 2020 studio, I decided to become a board member and continue my efforts in helping the organization. I will be focusing on getting SFL’s Reading Heroes on Wheels mobile learning center up and running for Detroit communities and surrounding cities”.

One of Jenna’s goals as an architect is to work on more Public Interest Design projects, noting that engaging with communities to discover and address what resources they need appeals to her. She also enjoys volunteering at her local Humane Society, which involves walking dogs and caring for animals waiting to be adopted.

How does Jenna think architecture improves life? “I believe architecture enriches life when someone can walk into a building or space and feel welcomed,” she says. “Architecture allows people to be curious about the space they are in and what’s occurring around them. Each person has their own reason regarding what makes them want to be a part of it. As an architect, I want to learn and understand those different perspectives so that they are all equally welcomed.”

Photos (top to bottom): Jenna; an image from Jenna’s Critical Practice Studio at LTU;  a selection from Jenna’s undergraduate portfolio; Reading Heros on Wheels.