Stefanie Warner comes from an architectural family. Her grandfather was an architect, her father works in construction, and she will soon graduate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. But the stereotypical life of architectural students—or, as she put it, “the stigma that architecture students must eat, breathe, and sleep architecture”—was never for her.
Warner pursued architecture, she said, because she recognized “how heavily a building’s features can influence how a person feels in that space.” Much of her work as an undergraduate has been in collaboration with fellow students to develop comfortable, engaging spaces for the entire community.
She even became the first School of Architecture student in nearly 30 years to become Grand Marshal, making her the leader of the university’s ultimate student space: The Rensselaer Student Union.
“Rensselaer has so much to offer in terms of fostering students academically, but when it comes to where I found enjoyment, it would hands-down be the Rensselaer Student Union,” Warner said. “The Union was my home away from home during my time at RPI. From clubs to committee meetings, study groups to meeting up with friends at the Clubhouse Pub, there is always something going on in the Union that fosters student interaction.”
In her capacity as the 153rd Grand Marshal, a position equivalent to student body president at other institutions, Warner led the establishment of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. This committee was tasked with developing a safe environment—both on and off campus—for all students and to increase diversity and inclusion education on campus. She called the committee’s creation “a leap in the right direction” toward creating an environment that guarantees equal opportunity, safety, and inclusion for Rensselaer students.
She also took part in an initiative to develop an interfaith prayer space. She worked with members of the Muslim Students Association, as well as students, faculty, and staff across the campus, to establish a prayer space close to the academic campus that accommodates all religious practices.
“Student government was a way for me to help others and do what I can to better the experience of my fellow and future classmates,” Warner said.
She also pursued other activities, including a season as a member of the RPI softball team and as a member of the Photography Club. A highlight of her academic career was taking part in the Architecture, Construction, and Global Facilities Internship at Tesla. Warner was selected as one of only two architecture students from around the country to help with the architectural work on the company’s Gigafactory 1 in Sparks, Nevada.
Perhaps it is no surprise that Warner is not necessarily following the traditional architectural path. After graduating with her Bachelor of Architecture degree, she plans to continue at Rensselaer to pursue a Master of Business Administration degree.
“Throughout my academic and professional careers, I have gravitated toward the intersection between architecture, engineering, and construction,” she said. “I wasn’t only interested in what built and conceptual work these cross-disciplinary ventures were able to create, but also the collaborative process that had to happen behind the scenes in order to pull this type of work off.”