Je'Nen Chastain

Designer with Heller Manus Architects, San Francisco, CA

Education:
Bachelor of Arts in Architecture, UNC Charlotte (2009)
Master of Business Administration, Mills College (2017)

Hometown: Richmond, VA

In her commencement address at Mills College in Oakland, California, where she recently received a Master of Business Administration, Je’Nen Chastain reminded her classmates and colleagues that several buildings on the campus had been designed by Julia Morgan, the first woman to become a licensed architect in California and the first to win an American Institute of Architects (AIA) Gold Medal (awarded posthumously in 2014). It was fitting that Je’Nen recognized Morgan; while a student at UNC Charlotte, she was elected to serve as the national president of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), the first female to serve in that role in a decade.

When Je’Nen graduated from UNC Charlotte in 2009, the recession had all but obliterated job opportunities for recent architecture graduates. But that hardship ultimately inspired her to move to California to pursue new career paths and a graduate degree. While at Mills College, Je’Nen focused her research on social entrepreneurship and the intersections of business and architecture. In recognition of her academic leadership, she received a Career Development Grant with the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and a Forté Fellowship with the Forté Foundation.

In 2016, Je’Nen was awarded a Presidential Citation from the AIA California Council in recognition for her work organizing the AIA Center for Civic Leadership and the AIA Leadership Institute. The next year, AIA National awarded her a 2017 Associates Award, “given to individual Associate AIA members to recognize outstanding leaders and creative thinkers for significant contributions to their communities and the architecture profession.”

Je’Nen recently returned to UNC Charlotte for a visit and reflected on her experience in the School of Architecture:

“I've been lucky to visit over 40 schools of architecture across the country and can say for certain that we have something special under Dean Ken Lambla’s leadership. The culture, the building, the students, the faculty, the alliances on and off campus, and the greater Charlotte professional community – all come together to make a very engaged community seeking to make a difference in the world. And walking through (Storrs Hall), seeing all the wonderful updates to the building, as well as the pride of our student and alumni work, reminded me what a gem this school is. Because of the culture, I thrived and it helped my career bloom!”