Stickney's passion for architecture spans the globe

Sara Stickney, who grew up in Bettendorf, Iowa, has always enjoyed physics, math, and art. She started in the University of Iowa College of Engineering as a mechanical engineering major, knowing that she had an interest in large-scale design. While she considered Iowa State and UCLA, she chose the UI because she felt most welcomed here.

“I really like the small class sizes,” she says. “I feel like I can get to know professors more. I feel like I can collaborate with my classmates instead of being pitted against each other.”

Stickney switched to civil engineering after hearing Allen Bradley, professor and chair of civil and environmental engineering, discuss the major in her first year seminar. She ultimately pursued the pre-architecture focus area with a minor in art and graduated with university honors this May.

Stickney found international opportunities to pursue her interests in architecture and design over the course of the past four years. She studied abroad through the university’s CIMBA program in Paderno del Grappa, Italy. In summer 2018, she completed an architecture internship in Hong Kong. Back on campus, Stickney worked as a research assistant for Robert Bork, professor of art and art history, who uses LiDAR (a technology similar to radar) to create 3D scans of European cathedrals. Her work focused on the technical side of the project, utilizing software that she mastered in her engineering coursework.

Not all of Stickney’s college career has been internationally focused—she’s also been active and engaged with the local community. She interned at local architecture firm Shive-Hattery last summer and will intern there again this summer. She was a founding member of the student group FACE, the Female Alliance of Civil Engineers. Stickney saw the group as an opportunity to build relationships among the relatively small community of women in the department. The group not only helped build camaraderie but also improved grades—the GPA of every member increased after joining.

Stickney also served as a teaching assistant for the Mechanics of Deformable Bodies course taught by UI CEE Professor Colby Swan and Bradley’s Engineering Problem-Solving I course. Many of the women she taught also became members of FACE.

“Sara is one of those students we will always remember,” Bradley says. “In the classroom, and in life, she is so accomplished and professional. She engages with everyone and is a leader. And as a TA for me in the first-year engineering course, I saw that she is not only a knowledgeable mentor and role model for students, but also one who always acted with compassion and wisdom. Sara is a trailblazer, and we are all proud that she will forever be a CEE Hawkeye.”

This fall Stickney will begin her studies for a master’s of architecture at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. She wants to focus her career on designing large-scale public spaces, citing the UI’s own Hancher Auditorium as an example of the kind of buildings she would like to create.

 “I really think it’s cool, the places that define cities,” she says. “Like here, Hancher is a building but also a cultural center of Iowa City. I really like that, a place that everyone can access and a place to educate.”

Sara Stickney at Hancher