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2011 AIA/NEI Student Scholarships

AIA Northeast Illinois Awarded Three Scholarships
In conjunction with The American Institute of Architects, the Northeast Illinois Chapter of The American Institute of Architects has awarded $1,400 scholarships to three students pursuing architectural degrees.

Jessica Palmerin
Judson University

Jessica Palmerin of Aurora is a graduate student in architecture at Judson University in Elgin this fall. She is a graduate of Judson’s undergraduate program and worked as an intern at Serena Sturm Architects in Chicago, as well as worked part-time with the university’s campus architect on campus master planning projects. Architecture is a tool, she said, a way of providing shelter and safety. But it’s also art, and it is that side of architecture that inspires her and that dictates that architecture must be more than shelter. “I strive for creative solutions that not only ensure structural stability and energy-efficiency, but also a stimulating and aesthetically pleasing environment,” she said.  She is also interested in sustainability, as well as affordable housing, urban development, community building, energy-efficiency, ecological sensitivity and sustainable urban planning. She has been a member of Chicago Women in Architecture and done volunteer work with Architecture for Humanity.


Liezel Pimental
University of Michigan

Liezel Pimental of Willowbrook expects to receive her master’s degree in architecture in May 2012 from the University of Michigan. Her interest is in disaster risk management. She plans to pursue issues of housing and settlement development to ensure sustainability, resiliency and survival of communities vulnerable to disaster, urbanization and densification. “My main interest is alleviating the burdens of flooding, with the possibility of appropriating, cleaning, storing and eventually utilizing the excess water.” She planned to work this summer in the Philippines exploring this topic and documenting current disaster risk management strategies. Another area of interest is urban planning typologies, including repurposing structures. Pimental has worked as an editorial assistant for the CriticalProductive journal of architecture and urbanism, plus as a drafter for James H. Webster and Associates.


Jason Soderlund
University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

Jason Soderlund of Wheaton is enrolled in a dual-degree master’s program at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign. The design process fascinates Soderlund, who loves to meticulously test different ideas and strategies, and explore that process with others to come up with the best collaborative solution. He hopes someday to run his own small firm, where fostering and encouraging collaboration from the entire team would be key. Soderlund spent a year abroad in Versailles, France, plus interned with Anderson Mikos Architects in Oakbrook, as well as with Walsh Construction in Chicago, where he worked in virtual construction, including creating models in Revit for use in presentations and bid packages, among other duties. He was internal vice president of the Illinois Chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students.


Arnold “Les” Larsen Memorial Scholarship
The chapter also selected a recipient for the $1,000 Arnold “Les” Larsen Memorial Scholarship of the DuPage Community Foundation.

Catherine Ferrari
University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

Catherine Ferrari of Lisle expects to receive her master’s degree in 2014 from the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign. Sustainability and affordability are key concerns. Her goal as an architect is to integrate environmental best practices into the homebuilding industry to make suburbia more sustainable, in affordable housing projects for marginalized populations to make (these projects) more humanly dignified, and in important historic structures in order to preserve the past and conserve for the future.” She envisions a new approach to designing buildings, creating structures that are “humanly dignified and historically significant, while at the same time environmentally responsible.” Environmental design strategies need to be used to make spaces safe, healthy, comfortable and affordable. She has interned at the National Public Housing Museum, the Chicago Department of Transportation, Congress for the New Urbanism and the Archimedia Workshop.

Larsen’s widow, Sandra Larsen, established the scholarship, for students studying at the graduate level at the University of Illinois at Chicago or Urbana-Champaign, in 2007. Les Larsen was a charter member of AIA Northeast Illinois and was an active member of the AIA at the local, state and national levels. The scholarship is administered by the DuPage Community Foundation; the NEI Scholarship Committee reviews applications and selects the recipient. 

“These students are the future of our profession and we’re pleased to give them this helping hand. In addition, the scholarships promote the profession of architecture, one of our core missions,” said chapter Scholarship Committee Chairman Steve Mihelich, AIA.

The national organization contributed $1,200 for the three chapter awards, which was divided among the three recipients.

AIA/NEI distributes the scholarships annually. The Naperville-based organization includes architects and those in related fields who live or work in Kane, DuPage and Kendall counties, plus the portions of Cook County north of the Stevenson and west of the Edens expressways, excluding the city of Chicago. For more information, visit

Previous Scholarship Winners
The Northeast Illinois Chapter of The American Institute of Architects, in conjunction with The American Institute of Architects, has awarded up to $3,000 in scholarships to three students pursuing architectural degrees. Below are previous Scholarship Winners.





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