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Renaissance Woman Hope Pollonais Excels in Design and Architecture

January 2017

Physics major Hope PollonaisHope Pollonais, C'2009, graduated from Spelman as one of two physics majors and one of three dual degree students in her class. She currently resides in New York City where she enjoys a diverse career that extends across a variety of fields including physics, civil engineering (with concentration in structures), design and architecture.  

The Right Choice

Pollonais first set foot on the grounds at 350 Spelman Lane when she was 16 years old. Her great-grandmother, Laurah Dell Austin, had arranged an entire tour which inspired her so much that she found herself in the hallways of the Albro-Falconer-Manley Science Center two years later. She believes attending Spelman College is one of the best decisions she has ever made and that there was no other option for her than making a choice to change the world.

"Spelman empowers the whole person to engage the many cultures of the world and inspires a commitment to positive social change. Attending Spelman allowed me to realize that the world has so much more to offer, and hence made me extremely keen on experiencing and seeing more," said Pollonais. That curiosity and eagerness to live life to the fullest that was planted in her mind allowed her to flourish at Spelman in academics as well as in other activities. 

"Spelman College is the home I chose for myself," confesses Pollonais. She says it is where she learned what it means to be an adult, how to think more broadly, and how to consider ideas from outside of her own imagination. The successful engineer learned more than just how to write a term paper, and more than just the lyrics to her school's Alma Mater.

blue-quote-leftI learned who I was, and I learned who I wanted to be. I learned how to study, but I also learned when it was necessary to leave the books behind for a couple of hours. I found my perfect study spot (Robert W. Woodruff Library), and I also found a group of women whose support, values, and philanthropy I will proudly carry out into the world," she said and added that she also learned things blue-quote-rightat Spelman that money cannot buy: "I learned what it means to gain lifelong friends, but I also learned how to cut out the people who had become toxic. I learned to apologize, and I learned to forgive.

Each year had its opportunities and its challenges for Pollonais but it always ended with the prospect of another year of learning looming on the horizon. Pollonais' love for learning caused her to excel and challenge herself personally and academically.

"The dual-degree engineering program was a perfect track for me because it was the best way to experience the best of both worlds." she said. At the end of five years, she earned two bachelors degrees -- one from Spelman College in physics, and one from Columbia University in civil engineering. 

Doctor for Sick Buildings

Spelman Physics Major Hope PollonaisToday, Pollonais is an experienced, team oriented, and highly motivated professional with a successful track record in consulting, management, project development, and design management. In New York, she works in the field of  forensic architecture which she says simply means she is a "doctor for sick buildings."

Pollonais describes New York as her hospital and the buildings are her patients, whether it is interior or exterior restoration, repair, historic preservation, capitol improvement or forensic investigation of existing buildings. Approaching every new project with the same goals: to protect and enhance the long-term value of the property as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. 

If she were to describe herself beyond a resume, Pollonais says she is a self-proclaimed, "modern-day renaissance woman," who is constantly looking for new programs, new sites, new methodologies, new ways to do her work.

Everything is Design 

Spelman Physics Major Hope PollonaisIn her spare time, Pollonais loves making things with her hands. The drive to create, she says, is an intrinsic "nerd/geeky" quality (right up there with loving genre fiction and drinking too much Mountain Dew).

"While many nerds or geeks may not think of themselves as creative in an artistic sense, most geeky pursuits are acts of creation," she said. "Everything is design. Everything!"

Pollonais has participated in several design competitions and won the 2011 Dog Park Art Installation in Los Angeles, California; She was also the co-designer and fabricator for the Los Angeles River Artist and Business Association. She also served as the lead designer for the 772 Myrtle Avenue community garden in Brooklyn, New York.

Once Pollonais began to see herself as a catalyst in the process of designing, new opportunities opened up for her. Not only opportunities where she can design objects — products, brochures, logos,books, posters and alike --- but where her approach to thinking also plays a huge role. She credits Spelman College for giving her the education and experience to last her a lifetime. 

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