For decades, the architecture, engineering and construction industries were overwhelmingly male-dominated, but the times they are a’changin’. Today, women hold a variety of roles in AEC firms, from managing multi-million-dollar construction projects to designing soaring office buildings to providing the executive leadership and support services necessary to bring such projects to fruition.
In this, AMP’s Salute to AEC issue, we are proud to highlight the accomplishments of some of the amazing women who are changing the culture, blazing trails and building a brighter future for clients all across Arkansas and beyond.
Leanne Baribeau is an architect and associate at Modus Studio, based in Fayetteville. Modus Studio has contributed a broad range of influential, sustainable and award-winning, place-making projects to the built realm since its inception in 2008. Baribeau believes architecture should serve a worthy purpose at all scales. From a door handle to a master plan, Baribeau believes good design is thoughtful, joyous, healthy, economical, sustainable, safe and purposeful. Baribeau earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture and has completed a wide range of projects including a cancer center, a 10-story commercial office building, multiple elementary schools, retail projects, multifamily developments and university residence halls. She was the project manager for the University of Arkansas’ Adohi Hall, the largest mass timber project in the United States at the time of construction and the first mass timber residence hall in North America, earning two dozen architectural and design awards. She was also the project manager for the new Ozark Natural Foods Co-Op completed in 2019 and has had the honor of serving as a board member for the Co-Op since 2021. Leanne’s current projects at Modus Studio include upcoming hospitality and mixed-use developments.
Environmental Director of Air
Akemi Bauer is Environmental Director of Air at ECCI. Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, Bauer attended Nihon University, relocating to the United States in the summer of 2000 for graduate school at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. In 2006, Bauer and her husband, Michael, moved to Little Rock, where she began her career at ECCI as an environmental engineer. Bauer continued her education in the STEM field, and in March of this year, she received her Arkansas license.
Executive VP Support Operations
Christine Bott currently serves as the Executive Vice President of Support Operations and recently became the first woman to join the Benchmark Group Board of Directors. She graduated from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts in English and began her career with Benchmark Group in 2003 as a Technical Writer. She has held various management positions and has become an integral leader for Benchmark Group overseeing multiple departments including Facilities, Human Resources, Information Technology and Marketing. In her current role, she is actively involved in company expansion, licensing, and strategic planning. Bott’s notable achievements at Benchmark Group include the company expansion into the Dallas market; navigating an ownership transition of the firm; and guiding the company through COVID-19. Bott is a member of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce (ASCC), Northwest Arkansas Human Resources Association (NOARK) and Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
Senior Project Manager
C.R. Crawford Construction Fayetteville
With 34 years of experience in the construction industry, Angie Berryhill’s name has become synonymous with words like “quality,” “integrity” and “focus.” She gained her industry experience from the ground up, first stepping onto a job site as a young woman — the only woman on the site — with the role of general laborer to help clear debris. Intrigued by the opportunities the industry offered, Berryhill vowed to stick with it and has moved through the ranks holding positions such as Project Coordinator, Contract Manager and Project Engineer.
Today, Berryhill serves as a Senior Project Manager for C.R. Crawford Construction, and her formula for continued success is staying focused on meeting client expectations through communication and collaboration. She inspires others to do their jobs well and safely and is valued for her intelligence, experience and demeanor. With a natural tendency to empower people, she regularly speaks with students of all ages – males and females alike – and shares the message of being true to yourself, warning against adjusting your standards in hopes of fitting in. Berryhill is an example of being both feminine and powerful in a male-dominated industry. She successfully manages multiple projects at one time and has managed projects in excess of $60 million. Angie is a Green Advantage Practitioner, Architectural Hardware Consultant, Certified Federal Grant Writer and is 30-hour OSHA certified.
Senior Project Administrator
Clark Contractors, LLC
Melanie Blacklock is a Senior Project Administrator at Clark Contractors and has over 33 years of experience in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. As Senior Project Administrator, Melanie manages building information modeling (BIM), LEED approval processes and closeout processes for Clark. Blacklock is dedicated to professional development and holds six industry certifications, including LEED AP BD+C and the certificate of management in building information modeling. She also earned a bachelor’s in construction management. As BIM Manager, Melanie serves as the point of contact for designers and subcontractors that send in models for overall coordination. Her closeout management responsibilities entail fulfilling Clark Contractors’ obligation at the end of each job to provide the owner with the needed items to help them with warranties, building operation and maintenance. Project closeout is the final construction phase of a typical project lifecycle and is a vital part of construction management services. Blacklock also creates and maintains necessary environmental reports required for the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) review and approval for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Blacklock’s favorite part of her job is interacting with the many people involved in a building project, from the Clark team and subcontractors to the owner and architect. Everyone has an essential role in a building project, and by putting the closeouts together, Blacklock helps bring the project full circle.
Principal/ Director of Interiors
As the Director of Interior Design for WER, Lauren Dickey’s passion is three-fold: to encourage women in the field of architecture; educate clients and provide sustainable solutions to design intent; and to further the health, safety and welfare of building occupants. Dickey obtained her certification as a WELL Accredited Professional, applying her design knowledge to create places that benefit the health, well-being and performance of people, solidifying her commitment to designing people-first places in Arkansas. Dickey’s experience ranges from office renovations to health care design to educational spaces. She has a passion for creating functional spaces for clients that are unique to their needs and aesthetics, making the design process both fun and effective for any type of project. With a keen eye for detail, Dickey loves the problem-solving aspect of figuring out furniture solutions for her clients. There are always an abundant amount of opportunities in a space.
Turn Key Construction
Sandy Dixon is the owner and President of Turn Key Construction Management, and for almost 20 years, Sandy has worked in the commercial construction industry. Dealing with a wide range of project types, Dixon has experience in medical, commercial, educational and religious construction projects. Turn Key was founded in 2007, and Dixon, as president of the organization, has been involved in every aspect of the business – including estimating through project completion and delivery. Dixon serves as an Alumni Foundation Board Member at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, an executive board member at the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce, a construction management advisory board member at John Brown University and is involved with several other associations.
Following in the footsteps of her father, Kate East is an owning partner of AMR Architects, of which her father was a founding member. She also took after her mother, who was an artist, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Lake Forest College. In 2005, she joined the AMR team while still working to get a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design from the University of Central Arkansas. She and another partner took over after her father’s passing, and their team has since grown. Her work in interior design frequently includes higher education projects, mixed-use developments, and commercial interiors. She is also directs the company’s marketing and handles most of the work with clients.
North Little Rock
Whether sketching dream houses or drawing cartoons, Reyna Espinoza was a creative child. Given her inclination toward mathematics, the path seemed almost obvious. She attended the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University. Being a first generation Mexican-American graduate, she was accustomed to overcoming various problems, and difficulties and problem-solving became second nature. Espinoza has been a project manager at Taggart for five years. Having used various building information modeling (BIM) programs in her 14 years of experience, she currently specializes in using Revit computer software to create construction documents.
Emily Hughes is the Assistant Controller for Kinco Constructors. She attended Hendrix College and has been with Kinco since June of 2003. Her management and accounting skills, along with her ability to multitask, have allowed her to play a major role in the growth of Kinco over the last few years. Hughes’ responsibilities include the management of accounting, auditing and budgeting in addition to numerous other day-to-day duties for the company.
President of ESG
Alyssa currently serves as the first Vice President of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) at Bernhard’s, where she oversees the development, consolidation, implementation, and publication of Bernhard’s ESG strategies and initiatives through coordination with multiple internal teams and business stakeholders, furthering Bernhard’s ongoing mission of promoting sustainability. This includes establishing clearly defined goals to reduce Bernhard’s greenhouse gas emissions, improve its internal diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and create momentum behind its charitable giving and community engagement efforts. Alyssa previously served as Bernhard’s Vice President of Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS) implementation where she led a team focused on increasing efficiencies within the solutions division at Bernhard, particularly related to EaaS projects. She was a key driver in the development of Bernhard’s industry leading measurement and verification services, and was heavily involved in the development of numerous EaaS projects. Alyssa earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hendrix College in Conway, double majoring in chemical physics and economics.
Ali Karr, P.E., CFM
Crafton & Tull
Ali Karr, P.E., CFM, is a project manager at Crafton Tull. She leads an engineering design team in the firm’s Rogers office, and focuses on commercial, multifamily and single family residential projects. She specializes in hydrologic and hydraulic studies for large drainage basins and floodplains. Karr graduated from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Science in biological engineering and has worked at Crafton Tull for five years. She is a member of the Arkansas Floodplain Management Association and the Crafton Tull Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) committee. Her favorite part of being an engineer is figuring out the puzzle that is each new project. No two projects are the same, and they all require new ideas and innovation to deliver a solution that is functional and desirable. She enjoys being a part of the Girls of Promise program for young women in STEM, which allows her to promote lifelong learning and problem-solving techniques that are essential to engineers in the workplace.
Fallon Lee is a Principal and Mechanical Engineer at Insight Engineering where she project manages and designs for a range of commercial construction projects. She is a registered professional engineer and a graduate of Arkansas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. Fallon has worked on projects ranging from a coffee shop to a hospital chiller plant renovation. After graduating from Arkansas State University, she moved back to Little Rock and took a job doing mechanical design. Quickly, Fallon felt more connected to projects within the state and chose a career path that would allow her to focus on projects that improve Arkansas and its communities at Insight Engineering. She is an active member of the American Society of Healthcare Engineers and the Arkansas Chapter of the American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), for which she serves on the board in several positions, including Board of Governors and Student Activities chair. She is also a board member of studioMAIN, a Little Rock nonprofit that mobilizes the community around innovative design.
Michelle Luce-Gilson is an AACE Certified Planning and Scheduling Professional who has worked in the construction industry for more than 30 years. From her early days pouring and prepping concrete for her family business to managing the schedule for large-scale jobs like an LAX terminal renovation, Luce-Gilson has seen it all. For the last seven years at VCC, Luce-Gilson has advanced to become the scheduling manager, working with talented people in a collaborative and supportive environment to handle the challenges of a busy, fast-paced construction firm.
North Little Rock
As a project manager on Garver’s Transportation Team, Kathryn McCoy, PE, dedicates her days to bettering Arkansas’ transportation infrastructure through innovative and cost-effective solutions. She works with cities to create Master Drainage Plans, helping them mitigate current drainage problems and plan for future needs. An expert in hydrologic and hydraulic modeling and analysis, she has worked on extensive projects involving proposed and existing transportation structures and FEMA floodplain-related projects. The impact of her work has been felt across the state – and the industry. As a part of a variety of professional organizations, Kathryn is committed to going above and beyond for the inclusivity and overall betterment of the transportation engineering industry. She serves on the board of the Arkansas Floodplain Management Association, is a dedicated member of the Women’s Transportation Seminar, and has been selected to the Arkansas Academy of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.
Cromwell Architects Engineers
Lily is a Little Rock native who has always known she wanted to be an architect. She is a graduate of the University of Arkansas with a with a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies. Lily practiced historic preservation for several years before moving into the broader category of design. She enjoys getting to know clients and developing a personal relationship with them so that they feel free to contact her for design advice and collaboration. Her design focuses on health care, office and hospitality. She volunteers her time with the Capital Zoning Commission, is the current Central Section Chair of Arkansas AIA, and is a member of Preserve Arkansas.
Structural Engineer Intern
Cromwell Architects Engineers
Brittani Mitchell is a Structural Engineer Intern and has been with Cromwell since 2016, when she initially started as a structural designer. She is currently working on her Master’s in Structural Engineering at Purdue University after receiving her Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Before Mitchell decided to pursue a career in structural engineering, she first attended Mizzou, where she completed a bachelor’s degree in architectural studies. As the only female engineer in the structural department, Mitchell is one of two female engineers at Cromwell. In her time at Cromwell, she has worked on a variety of projects including industrial, health care and office space. Beyond taking on the day-to-day tasks of structural engineering design work, Mitchell is very involved in Cromwell committees that benefit both the company and the community. She’s a member of the Safety Committee, the Student Outreach and Recruitment team and a mediator for the Quality Control committee.
Project Manager Ann Miller has been with Nabholz for 31 years. Miller’s credentials include LEED® AP Building Design + Construction, OSHA 30-hour and Certified Construction Manager. Miller values relationships and building trust with a wide range of subcontractors, suppliers and owners. Born in Wichita, Kansas, and raised in Springdale, Miller received certification from the American Business College before attending Northwest Arkansas Community College. After joining Nabholz as a receptionist in 1991, Miller quickly moved into production, serving as a project manager assistant and project coordinator before her promotion to project manager in 2004. She specializes in managing project finances and budgets and has expertise in risk assessment and organization. Miller serves as a member of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), an organization dedicated to the career growth and development of women in construction. Miller and her husband, Richard, share two children, Andrew and Larissa, and have been blessed with four grandchildren, Jayden, Cody, Peyton and Mason.
AIA/Leed AP/Associate Principal
Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects
A graduate from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Patty Opitz is an associate principal and senior staff architect of Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects. With over 16 years of combined experience in residential and commercial construction for various facility types, Opitz provides diverse knowledge of project management and architectural planning. Opitz currently serves as a supervisor for the Architectural Experience Program for new hires at PSW, mentoring architectural associates by creating goals and strategies for completing their required hours in several experience areas to work towards the completion of their architectural exams. Opitz is a leader in the firm and in the architectural community. In 2019, Opitz was recognized by the American Institute of Architects with the Young Architect Award, just one of 22 architects selected annually from across the country for this prestigious recognition. Opitz is also a recipient of the Arkansas Construction Hall of Fame 2018 Emerging Professional Award and the AIA Arkansas 2016 Emerging Professional Award. Opitz is a graduate of the Little Rock Regional Chamber’s Leadership Greater Little Rock Class XXXII. Past and current key project experience includes; Bank OZK Headquarters and Master Plan, Apptegy Headquarters, University of Central Arkansas Donaghey Hall and District Master Plan, The Village at Hendrix Market Square South, The Purple Cow Restaurants, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas, Rayonier Corporate Offices and numerous private residences across the state of Arkansas.
Intern Architect/ Interior Designer
Nicol Pastran was born in Grana Hills, Calif. However, at the age of 3 her parents moved back to their home country of El Salvador, where she was raised. Growing up in El Salvador allowed her to absorb the Latin-American culture and to be bilingual in English and Spanish. From a very young age, she showed interest in Art and Design, attending extracurricular art classes and participating in art and photography school competitions. In 2011 she graduated from Josue Christian School in El Salvador, and moved back to the United States to earn her Bachelor of Science in Interior Design from Harding University. Upon graduating in 2015, she joined the lighting industry working as a lighting rep for an established company in Central Arkansas, where she developed a passion for the technical side of design. In summer of 2017 she enrolled to pursue a Master’s in Architecture at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Nicol is always adding a Latin flair into her designs, which is why her thesis was based on creating an indoor tropical environment for a holistic center and retreat. She earned her M.Arch at the end of 2021 and joined the WDD team in early 2022, where she practices both architecture and interior design. Pastran has served on the leadership board of Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) Little Rock Chapter as treasurer, secretary, vice president and president the last 4 years, and as her term ends, she will continue to serve as the PR chair, as well as be involved with the local ASID and AIA chapters. Pastran has worked on a wide range of projects, including historic preservation, high-end residential, churches, schools and theatrical applications, and she continues to be involved in a variety of projects at WDD.
Senior Plumbing Designer
HP Engineering, Inc.
Betsy Wells is the Senior Plumbing Designer for HP Engineering, Inc. With over 20 years of experience in the AEC industry, Wells started her career after completing technical courses at Northwest Arkansas Community College. Wells finds plumbing systems fascinating and loves knowing how all the pieces work together to make buildings function optimally. Wells has designed plumbing systems for schools, municipal offices, worship spaces, corporate, retail, restaurants, offices, health care, community centers, travel plazas, hotels, fire stations, multifamily housing and private residences. She is responsible for selecting plumbing fixtures and equipment and ensuring the sanitary, water, gas and storm drainage systems route properly within the parameters of a building’s floor plan. Outside of work, Wells can be found riding her motorcycle, spending time with her family, scrapbooking and enjoying the outdoors through camping, hiking, fishing and hunting. Betsy and her husband recently celebrated their 27th anniversary and have two grown sons who have dedicated their lives to serving others as a police officer and a member of the United States Army. Wells is also a two-time breast cancer survivor and advocates for women’s health and breast cancer awareness.