Mara Braspenninx

Chapter: Iktinos (and while I was in grad school the Anthemios Chapter adopted me as an on-campus alumna)
Undergraduate Major: Architecture at the University of Michigan
Masters in Architecture with specialization in Historic Preservation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Current City: Traveling around the country volunteering on organic farms.
Hometown: Kent City, Michigan
Joined Alpha Rho Chi in January of 1999
Former Worthy Grand Associate Architect

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Jessica Hines: Why did you join Alpha Rho Chi?
Mara Braspenninx: I was looking for ways to help with boosting my resume and portfolio to improve my chances of getting into the architecture program. I also thought it would be cool, as a woman, to say that I was a brother of a fraternity.

JH: Why did you choose architecture?
MB: I decided at age 11 that I wanted to be an architect. As a kid I drew up floor plans for fun and found out at age 11 that there was a career that did exactly that!

JH: What is something you love about Alpha Rho Chi?
MB: The family. Knowing that I have brothers all around the country and when we meet up it’s like we have never been apart. I also enjoy interacting with students and recent graduates. Their passion is renewing and reminds me of why I went into architecture to begin with.

JH: What is a reason someone should continue with Alpha Rho Chi after graduation?
MB: For the brotherhood as well as the professional connections. I found two of my architecture positions through connections with brothers. Staying involved after graduation also provides the opportunity to take on leadership positions and gain experience and skills which can be applied to other aspects in life. Being involved in Alpha Rho Chi also gives you a reason to travel to different areas around the country for conventions and conferences.

JH: Do you have any advice for brothers out there?
MB: Travel as much as possible. The best way to learn is to see and experience as much as you can. Even if it doesn’t seem applicable to you and your current situation you will find connections.

JH: What have you found to be difficult after graduation?
MB: There are so many aspects of architecture that are not discussed in school and they are all important to making a project work. The professional realm is certainly different from school and takes getting used to.

JH: What is your favorite memory of Alpha Rho Chi?
MB: My favorite memory is the first convention I attended in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was so great seeing the brotherhood from across the country at the banquet celebrating together. At the end of the night I was leading a locomotion train all around the banquet hall. That was my introduction to APX as a national organization and it sparked my interest in being involved beyond my chapter.

JH: What is the Jam Tour?
MB: The farm adventure I am on is nicknamed the Jam Tour. As a hobby I make jam and that is one of the reasons I am interested in farming and why I wanted to learn about the food I use in my jams. A pledge brother introduced me to World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or WWOOF for short), which connects organic farmers with people who want to volunteer and learn about organic farming. It works kind of  like an online dating site where farms and volunteers each post profiles and are able to search for each other based on different parameters. The program is self-directed and there is no specific time frame. For me personally I am taking a year to travel the United States and visit various farms.  There are also branches of the WWOOF organization in many countries around the world.    

JH: What were you doing before WWOOF and why did you want to join?
MB: I was working for an architecture firm before I started WWOOFing.  I decided to treat this year like a sabbatical or a gap year, to recharge my batteries and create new experiences that I can bring into my life. I did not want to get to retirement age and say “I wish I had done that”.

JH: Do you have any fun facts or anecdotes you care to share?
MB: I make jam. I have driven my VW beetle across the country from coast to coast! In my free time I also make quilts.

JH: Where do you want to go from here?
MB: I’m not sure yet where the next adventure will take me.

JH: What positions have you held in Alpha Rho Chi?
MB: In school: Pledge Trainer. As an Alumni: Regional Director for what was then called Region 4 (Michigan, Illinois and Ohio), Expansion Director, and WGAA.