Designs on a Dream

In 2021 Alzira Maldonado Protsishin (M.A.S. ARCH ’14) won the American Institute of Architects Chicago (AIA Chicago) Dubin Family Young Architect Award—a title that, on the surface, might suggest a seamless ascent to notoriety. But Maldonado Protsishin is someone who knows what it is to fight for a dream—to rise as a minority woman in a male-dominated field, and to build a career, and a life, a world away from where she began.

Born in what is now Kyiv, Ukraine, and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, Maldonado Protsishin is the daughter of two structural engineers. Her parents divorced when she was young, and she split her time between both of their houses growing up, sometimes tagging along on their work projects. The influence of their careers, she says, was significant.

“It is incredible for me, for my mom, for my family, to have that recognition [through the AIA Chicago award] in a different country and after all of the effort that it took. To me it’s mind blowing.” 

When she became a mother at a young age, Maldonado Protsishin stayed true to the dreams for her career with the support of her family.

“I finished high school with the help of my parents,” she says. “I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am [otherwise]—it’s because they helped me a lot, especially my mom. Going to college later, it was a 24-hour job basically. It was taking [my son] to kindergarten, going to class, picking him up, doing homework, dinner, getting him in bed, and then after that I got to study and do my homework for school as well. It was busy, I have to say, and challenging at times. I don’t think I would change a thing about it.”

This story was featured in the fall-winter 2022 issue of Illinois Tech Magazine. You can read the full story on the Illinois Tech Magazine website

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