Events, People

SOM Women's Initiative Hosts Seventh Annual Winter Shadowing Program

The SOM Women’s Initiative (SOMWI) hosted 27 graduate and undergraduate students for its annual Winter Internship Week, from January 2nd through 5th, 2018. Now in its seventh year, the program provides critical office exposure and mentorship to young women pursuing careers in design.

Invited to spend the week in one of our five U.S. offices, participants were selected on the strength of their applications and design portfolios. "The students brought great curiosity and energy to the program," said architect Katherine Tiarsmith, who helped to organize the program in our D.C. office.

Throughout the week, these promising young women shadowed professionals across departments, including architecture, interior design, urban planning, management, structural engineering, and communications and marketing. Students participated in activities that demonstrate the range of roles and responsibilities at SOM, as well as the breadth of the firm's current projects.

Activities included a tour of our wind tunnel and a visit to the "SOM: Engineering x [Art + Architecture]" exhibit in Chicago; a site visit to Sunset La Cienega Residences and a virtual reality demonstration in Los Angeles; a site visit to the Manhattan West Development in New York; a tour of Transbay Block 9 and a training session in high performance design in San Francisco; and a site visit to the Capitol Crossing project under construction in Washington, D.C. Participants also took part in a portfolio review and meet-and-greets with SOM employees at various levels.

"Since most students haven't worked in the field or in big firms before, they're always eager to see projects in progress," said Amy Garlock, who organized the program in our New York office last year and participated as a mentor in 2018.

Kaleigh Stough, who spent the week in our D.C. office, reported, "The experience really opened my eyes not only to how projects are done in the real world, but how one of the best firms operates, which has furthered my admiration for SOM. The advice I received from everyone I spoke with further pushed my desire to pursue architecture."

Belinda Pak, a participant in San Francisco, said, "I would highly recommend the program to any aspiring architects and designers; it's a wonderful way to meet dedicated and empowering people, while getting a taste of various design fields."

Bobbi Maniaci, who joined us in our New York office, said,"This program is beyond encouraging and inspiring to women, especially those still in college, and SOM should be very proud to be such a prominent trailblazer in terms of firm equality."

The women who participated in the 2018 SOMWI Winter Internship Week were:

Chicago: Nicole Bronola (University of Pennsylvania), Lissette Iturburu (University at Buffalo), Carrie Jim (School of the Art Institute of Chicago), Jennah C. Jones (Stanford University), Lu Lu (Columbia University), Sneha Murali (University of New Mexico), Yunzi Shi (Princeton University), Kirthna Subash (Smith College), Elaine Zmuda (Illinois Institute of Technology), Joanna Zou (Columbia University)

Los Angeles: Ashley Chang (USC), Zeyu Duan (USC)

New York: Elizabeth Johnson (Syracuse University), Esmee Koopman (TU Delft), Hiral Mangrola (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Bobbi Maniaci (New Jersey Institute of Technology), Teresa Russo (Pratt Institute)

San Francisco: Ming Hong (Stanford University), Sunny Nguyen (Stanford University), Belinda Pak (USC), Miriam Truppin-Brown (Rice University), Cinya Wen (USC), Gabriela Perez (McGill University), Elaine Welsher (McGill University), Alicia Desmay (University of Manchester)

Washington, D.C.: Ashley Chung (University of Texas at Austin), Bronte Morris-Poolman (McGill University), Kaleigh Stough (University of Oklahoma)


The SOM Women's Initiative, established in 2011, positions SOM as a leader in the design community by challenging barriers to gender equity and by fostering the retention and growth of women. SOMWI seeks to create an excellent, innovative, and sustainable workplace that reflects the firm's commitment to enhancing the built environment.