Quan Pham

Quan Pham
Meet Quan Pham

Pham looks forward to skyscraper-tall dreams, still keeping Nebraska as his second home

May 2, 2019 | by Courtney Van Hoosen

Over the course of his last seven years at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as an undergraduate and graduate student, Quan Pham has made Nebraska his home.

Quan meeting with alumnis in Chicago

Originally from Vietnam, Pham loved to draw since a young age and was constantly making structures from building blocks and other toys. When he began his college career, Pham started as a graphic design major at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska. However, he soon transferred to UNL and switched his major to interior design in the College of Architecture. Throughout his undergraduate career, Pham built close relationships with peers he still remains in close touch with, despite the fact some have spread off to Omaha, Chicago and beyond.

"I think my most favorite and most valuable memory in my time here is the time when I graduated undergraduate here at UNL—this time when I know this journey's ending and it was a new journey beginning, and all my friends I have with me throughout the journey and the new friends I will make in the future," said Pham.

In 2015, Pham chose to continue his educational journey at Nebraska by pursuing his Master's of Architecture. Building off his childhood passion, Pham dived into his graduate degree with enthusiasm, drawn to the variety of experience that comes with designing buildings. His design preferences echo the same sentiment, as he enjoys projects with mid-size to large-size buildings, working on interior and exterior spaces, and tackling brand new projects and renovations.

As a human, we all experience the space differently. For example, the adult will see the space different compared to the children due to height differences and age. I love to design for different humans.

Quan Pham

Dr. Mark Hinchman, a professor of interior design in the College of Architecture, noticed Pham's talent when he was a second year undergraduate student. Hinchman, who was serving as a guest critic for a course project review, was struck by Pham's unique perspective.

"I still remember his project, despite having seen hundreds of them in the interim," said Hinchman. "It was a landscape project for the front of the Sheldon [Art Museum]. Quan's drawings introduced the project cartoon-style, with himself as an anime character flying over the site in a helicopter. I'd never seen anything like it."

Now, as he graduates this May with his Master's of Architecture, Pham is eager for his next journey and chasing big dreams. He recently accepted a position at the award-winning firm Perkins+Will, who was recognized by progressive business magazine Fast Company as one the World's Most Innovative Companies in 2018 for reducing its clients' carbon footprint. Pham will begin working as an architect at the firm's headquarters in Chicago this June 2019. In addition to beginning his professional career in the city of his dreams, Pham says he is excited to move to Chicago for the beauty of the city and the diversity he sees in its core.

"My big dream is to be able to leave my impact on the design field. We need a more diverse voice in design—diversity on political terms, and diversity in project type due to different perspectives on the projects," said Pham. "We also need to consider sustainability in design more carefully."

Quan with first year students

Despite the move to Chicago, Pham knows he'll remain connected to Nebraska. After all, he refers to the state as his second home—a home where he has family and friends still, and a home where he's grown confidently into himself. As he reflects on his time at Nebraska, Pham is proud that he was able to open himself up to a new country, a new language and a new culture. As a little boy, Pham describes himself as shy and hesitant to talk to new people. But after coming to the U.S., he was able to open himself up and make new friends, a feat he couldn't have done without the support he felt from the university's community.

"I think the happiest, the most supporting thing is the faculty and the people here at the university. When you need help, they would always say yes to you, and never say no," said Pham.

In fact, it was Hinchman that Pham turned to early on in his master's program when he was looking for an internship in Chicago. Hinchman, who had connections with employees at Perkins+Will, helped introduce Pham to the hiring process for the firm, but after that, it was up to Pham to earn the internship. Pham succeeded in earning an internship for not just one summer, but three summer internships, a feat that Hinchman says is somewhat unusual and a clear indicator that Pham impressed the firm.

Quan in undergrad graduation

"Quan knows intuitively how to get support from people in authority," added Hinchman. "He has a charming combination of hyper politeness and friendliness that wins people over and makes them want to help him succeed."

Pham is grateful for his UNL experiences that have prepared him for previous internships and his new job. In his research design studio, for example, he learned about the design process in great depth, as well as development and final production. The course also encouraged collaboration and students to learn skills from each other based on team-based projects. This course will be an important lesson for his work as according to Pham, teamwork is the most important skill required in architecture. Pham also served as a teaching assistant for first year architecture students during his graduate career, a fun memory that he credits as inspiration for his desire to continually train himself and learn from mistakes.

As he continues to pursue his ambitious dreams in architecture and beyond, Pham will always look back at his time in Nebraska with great joy, no matter where he ends up. After all, he says, "Nebraska is my home and will always be my home."

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