To kick off Women’s History Month in March, NAHB is spotlighting an individual who has dedicated her career to inspiring the next generation of residential construction industry leaders.
Molly Smith, a registered architect and construction management lecturer at California State University Fresno, and her colleague Michele Randel are continually working to increase interest in residential construction careers. In addition to teaching architectural design and construction courses, they volunteer at career days, workshops and open houses, advise student groups and coach student competition teams. They even led a group of students working on an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition project in nearby Clovis, Calif., in July 2019.
One of their favorite programs is Explore Engineering, a weeklong summer program for junior high and high school students that showcases the engineering, architecture and construction programs available in the Lyles College of Engineering at Fresno State.
During Explore Engineering week in 2022, Smith and Randel, the only female College of Engineering faculty members to participate in the event, had a full day to introduce students to architectural design and residential construction through presentations, demonstrations and hands-on activities.
"One of the most rewarding comments from our last summer camp came from a parent who said that when her daughter and a friend read the program details, they were very excited for our presentation...they wanted to see what we do," said Smith. "As they say, actions speak louder than words. Telling female students that there are rewarding careers in the residential industry for everyone, compared to seeing women successful in that industry, is powerful."
Smith entered construction higher education after more than 20 years of experience as an architect and has already been recognized by NAHB as an up-and-coming educator, winning the 2019 Outstanding Junior Faculty Award. She is a faculty advisor to the NAHB student chapter at Fresno State and helps coach the team for the Four-Year Student Competition at the International Builders' Show.
Her position as a full-time lecturer resulted from a $100,000 National Housing Endowment (NHE) Homebuilding Education Leadership Program (HELP) grant in 2015, which helped create a residential focus in the construction management program at Fresno State. She has also helped place interns with home builders and has several graduates working in residential construction. NHE also provides three Professional Women in Building scholarships.
More information on NAHB's Professional Women in Building Council is available at nahb.org.