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Center for Professional Development
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Dartmouth College
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Alumni Stories: Beth Kostman '86

An Alum Builds Her Dream

Do you have a love of architecture and design? Are you curious about what steps to take while here at Dartmouth that could put you on the path to becoming an architect? Beth Kostman '86, is one alumna who has pursued a career in architecture; she currently runs her own architecture business on Martha's Vineyard, though she has had a variety of experiences leading up to her present position.

An art history major while here at School, Beth always harbored a desire to become an architect, but she did not enter the field until several years after graduating from Dartmouth. Initially, Beth worked in account management with an advertising firm in New York City. She remained in advertising for two years before returning to graduate school at Syracuse University to pursue a master's degree in architecture. Beth had taken the advertising position because she had been nervous about entering graduate school directly out of college; eventually, however, she decided that she would prefer a career in architecture.

Beth enrolled in a summer architecture program at Columbia while still working in advertising in order to gain insight into the field. Since Dartmouth does not offer a degree in architecture, Beth undertook three years of graduate school, followed by three years of work experience, before sitting for the certification exam. Beth strongly recommends a liberal arts background for aspiring architects, for it prepares students for the variety of responsibilities they will be faced with on the job. She emphasizes that students of virtually any major can go on to practice architecture.

Throughout her career Beth has worked in architecture offices of various sizes and in various locations, including Colorado and Florence. She worked for three years with a large firm based in Manhattan, focusing on retail projects. Since they were in New York City, most of the work centered around renovating interior spaces rather than altering the existing exterior structures. Beth was frustrated in a large firm because she sought more direct responsibility than they provided. For those looking for internships, however, she explains that larger firms tend to offer more opportunities to undergraduates. After her stint in New York, Beth took an opportunity to work with a small firm on Martha's Vineyard. Here her responsibilities were more varied and she had greater input into the process. From this experience, Beth went on to form her own business.

Beth is self-employed and works in the resort community of Martha's Vineyard. He business focuses on residential architecture, which combines both practical and creative processes. Some clients choose to stick to more functional designs, such as renovating a kitchen, while others are more adventurous, tearing down existing houses to create their own unique homes. Beth finds trying new things to be the challenge of residential architecture - combining a cozy New England feel with new spaces and ideas. Dartmouth's liberal arts education has proven to be valuable in Beth's practice as she constantly juggles marketing her business, generating new sales, meeting with clients, writing proposals, designing homes, and monitoring construction. As in any small architecture firm, marketing and interpersonal skills are as essential as sculpting and designing abilities.

To those considering a career in architecture, Beth underscores the need to attend graduate school, and she encourages work in an architecture office during a leave term to gain a better understanding of the field.

Last Updated: 6/21/12