Mar. 15, 2022

 

Every department in Facilities provides a significant contribution to construction on campus whether it be financial, design, planning or operational. In celebration of Women in Construction Week (March 6 - 12) and National Women's History Month we are highlighting some of the women of the Facilities organization that help us achieve success.

Laura Carlson

Laura Carlson
Office of Capital Projects
Field Manager

Years in Facilities - 8 years

Facilities Project or Area of Focus - Hobson College Project

Laura's Bio - I'm a licensed Architect, graduate of Syracuse University. I worked for most of my career on the design side, designing laboratories for the corporate and education sectors. I came to the owner side for Princeton as a Project Manager to run small projects for the Science Portfolio. I became a Field Manager in 2020 to work on the larger Capital Projects and to concentrate on the construction side of the process.

What led you to a career in Facilities / Construction? - I've always liked creating things: I enjoy building construction since it is a tangible accomplishment. My grandfather was a builder, and I was always drawn to construction. I like being outside, active, and getting out of the office. It is great to be here on campus with all the exciting construction activity.

What advice can you share? - My advice would be to make sure to get some exposure in summers in high school and/or college to construction. This could be paid or internships, or even volunteer work like Habitat for Humanity. Look at the underrepresentation of women as a challenge not a hurdle.

Gina Talt

Gina Talt
Office of Sustainability
Food Systems Project Specialist

Years in Facilities - 5.5 years

Facilities Project or Area of Focus - The Sustainable Composting Research at Princeton (S.C.R.A.P.) Lab and support for other Campus as Lab projects within CP2 efforts

Gina's Bio - I get to work with all departments in Facilities in managing our food scraps composting project, the S.C.R.A.P. Lab, or "SCRAPPY" for short. I also support other projects that use the Campus as a Lab for sustainability problem-solving, such as embedding sensors in the new East Campus Garage to study the structural integrity of lower-carbon concrete. The other half of my role involves assisting a faculty member on food and agriculture research. I am a member of the Princeton Class of 2015 and an avid runner!

What led you to a career in Facilities / Construction? - The opportunity to give back to my alma mater and create a more sustainable campus while engaging faculty and students.

What advice can you share? - Don't be afraid to venture out of your comfort zone! You'll learn a lot and staff at Princeton are always ready to help and provide support when needed.

 Jessica Kassar

Jessica Kassar
Operations
Building Services

Years in Facilities - 20.5 years

Facilities Project or Area of Focus - Frick Chemistry Building for building services

Jessica's Bio - I have worked for Building Services for 20 years. I enjoy working with my colleagues and for my dept. I have two children and have been happily married for 14 years. I look forward to many more years of service at this wonderful University.

What led you to a career in Facilities / Construction? - I took a job at the University while I was going to college for nursing. My life had other plans and I decided that I really enjoyed working in my department and I wanted to continue doing work that I enjoyed and being around people who were meaningful.

What advice can you share? - I would say that working in the facilities sector of the university brings many enriching opportunities to learn new things and meet many diverse people. It’s what has kept me engaged all of these years. I love working for my department.

 Ethel Chan

Ethel Chan
Office of Capital Projects
Senior Project Manager

Years in Facilities - 2 years

Facilities Project or Area of Focus - East Campus & Lake Campus Site Development

Ethel's Bio - I used to travel the extreme north and south ends of the state managing NJDOT concrete bridge maintenance and repair. From there, I made a switch and worked on landmarks in NYC such as the Chanel Boutique on 57th and Rockefeller Center. I love working at Princeton University, where communication and teamwork are priorities, and the projects are unique and can range from big excavations to art installations to a molecular biology lab fitout.

What led you to a career in Facilities / Construction? - Lifelong fascination with construction, buildings, and big machines.

What advice can you share? - There has never been a better time to get in construction. What previously was male-dominated is becoming an equal playing field. The project teams at Princeton University that I've worked with reflect gender equality and balance.

Cathy Altadonna and Alexis Mutschler

Cathy Altadonna (left)
Office of Capital Projects
Senior Project Manager

Years in Facilities - 17+ years

Facilities Project or Area of Focus - Science Neighborhood (labs, offices, ESRM/HSA), Sherrerd Hall, Jadwin Hall, TIGER, and the East Garage, as well as some unique ones such as Butler Tract Demolition and the Grounds and Building Support Area.

Cathy's Bio - I have a degree in Chemical Engineering with a concentration in Biochemical Engineering from Rutgers. I spent about 22 years working in the pharmaceutical industry before coming to Princeton. I worked on labs and animal facilities, as well as on pilot plant and production facilities and equipment for non-sterile liquids/ ointments/creams and parenterals.

What led you to a career in Facilities / Construction? - I was lucky enough to get a job as a project engineer with Schering-Plough after graduation in their Corporate Engineering group. At the time, Interferon was the next potential wonder drug, and S-P was working hard to scale up the process and build the production facility. I had studied fermentation and cell culture in school. They sent me to work on the pilot plant and then to the plant they were building in Ireland. I've been in project management ever since.

National Average of Women in Construction 10.9%

What advice can you share? - Be an engineer who is a woman, not a woman engineer. When I went to school, there were still many more men than women in engineering. When I started my first job at the pilot plant I knew I was young and had a lot to learn. Some of the contractors and plant operations supervisors taught me a lot. The plant supers who had seen other young (male) engineers come through told me they liked me because I respected them and asked questions, unlike the arrogant know-it-alls they usually saw. They could have really messed with me and the project, but they didn't because of how I treated them. They appreciated that I asked questions and clearly wanted to learn. So ask questions, learn what you need to learn. Everyone has their piece to contribute to the project and their expertise. Be respectful and help everyone, and they will help you.

 

Shilpa Gupta

Shilpa Gupta
Finance & Administrative Services
Manager, Facilities Business Office

Years in Facilities - 3 years

Facilities Project or Area of Focus - I lead the oversight and management of the Facilities Operating budget and other financial aspects such as fiscal year-end close. I am also a core member of the Facilities Diversity and Inclusion Committee (COI).

Shilpa's Bio - I grew up and studied in India and moved to the US in 2004. Since then I completed my CPA and now have over 11 years of accounting/finance experience in higher education. I strive to attain excellence in my chosen field and constantly endeavor to achieve and provide a healthy work-life balance to my team. One of my very important goals is to be a role model to my two young daughters who see their mom successfully navigating her career and family in varied ways.

What led you to a career in Facilities / Construction? - Prior to joining Facilities, I worked at Rutgers University for five years in a central financial reporting role. I learned a lot about finance in higher education institutions. And I wanted to apply this learning to new challenges and continue my professional journey. I came across the Finance and Budgeting role in the Facilities Business office at Princeton University. I had seen the Higher Ed world from a central F&T point of view and thought it would be great to understand it from a department's perspective. To say the least, it has been a great experience working on the complex facilities operating budget, managing a diverse team of business analysts, and getting an overall understanding of the world of facilities and construction.

What advice can you share? - In my 17 years of professional life, I have realized that women, at times, may have a steeper ladder to climb, particularly in traditional areas such as Facilities/construction. I would advise my women colleagues to be bold, confident, assertive, and constantly look for opportunities to add value to the organization. Furthermore, I would advise women to be each other's biggest cheerleaders, mentors, and support upcoming women who are trying to break into this field.

Debbie Sidoran

Debbie Sidoran
Operations
Building Services

Years in Facilities - 4+ years

Facilities Project or Area of Focus - Cleaning blackboards, offices, and floor care.

Debbie's Bio - I have good work ethics, and I like to have access to the tools I need to perform my job properly.

What led you to a career in Facilities / Construction? - After having my own hardwood floor company and carpet cleaning company since 1984, I started different forms of cleaning jobs after 2006. I love working with Princeton University now.

What advice can you share? - Go after whatever career you're good at and that makes you happy.

Courtney LaRuffa

Courtney LaRuffa
Office of Capital Projects
Project Manager

Years in Facilities - 1.5 years

Facilities Project or Area of Focus - Science Renovation Projects

Courtney's Bio - I received a Bachelor of Architectural History from the University of Virginia and a Master of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. I worked for over a decade in architecture firms in Philadelphia, including 5.5 years focusing on hospital renovations and laboratory projects. I live outside of Philadelphia with my husband Jon, 12-year old daughter Josie, and dog Roopert.

What led you to a career in Facilities / Construction? - I came to the building industry by way of historic preservation. After working in preservation for a couple of years I pursued a graduate degree in architecture to increase my career opportunities. Through circumstance my career veered away from preservation, but I still love and respect old buildings.

What advice can you share? - This is not a field for the faint of heart. Be prepared to assert yourself from the start in order to be heard and respected.

"The opportunity is there, just go get it!"

Sharon Warkala

Sharon Warkala
Finance & Administrative Services
Manager, Procurement Office

Years in Facilities - 15 years (32 PU years)

Facilities Project or Area of Focus - I lead a team of 3 CAs that primarily support the Science Portfolio Projects, Operations/Major Maintenance Projects, and the Residential/Off Campus/Real Estate Projects.

Sharon's Bio - I have been working in contract/procurement administration for my entire career. After graduating college in 1982, I started my career as a Department of Army Contract Specialist Intern working at Fort Monmouth, NJ. In 1990, I accepted a position with Princeton University as a Subcontract Administrator at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory working on contracts and subcontracts in support of fusion research & development projects. In 2007, I accepted my current position as the Manager, Facilities Procurement Office and came into Facilities at the start of CP1 and worked as the Contract Administrator for the the new Frick Chemistry Building, the Neuro-Psych Building, Andlinger Center, 20 Washington, and most recently the Robertson Hall Renovation. I lead a team of three Contract Administrators and together we support a variety of projects for the OCP Science Projects Portfolio, Operations/Major Maintenance Projects and Residential, Off-Campus, and Real Estate projects.

I am the Vice President of the Board of Directors for the South Central NJ Affiliate of Habitat for Humanity and together with my husband Chris who is also on the BOD, we support and promote the construction of affordable housing in Mercer, Burlington, Middlesex, and Atlantic Counties.

I have been married to my husband Chris (Operations Manager for HRES/University Svcs) for 35 years and we live in Lawrenceville with our two Maine Coon Cats -- Kismet and Callaloo (aka "Looie").

What led you to a career in Facilities / Construction? - Pat Corcoran and Mike Karl started the Contracts Administration Office in Facilities and I had worked in contracts with Pat and Mike at PPPL. I reached out to Mike to inquire and ultimately was selected for the CAO position in Facilities/Construction contracts.

What advice can you share? - Soak up all of the knowledge and experience that you can! Seek out the best and learn to be the best from them!

Women in Construction Clip 2

Patricia Jones
Finance & Administrative Services
Contract Administrator

Years in Facilities - 9 years

Facilities Project or Area of Focus - I am a Contract Administrator working mostly on the Science Laboratory Portfolio. I work on some really innovative and unique lab renovations with the Project Managers.

Patricia's Bio - The most important thing you should know about me is…

*I'm exceptionally organized, creative, and innovative.

*I have respect.

*I am an outgoing and very friendly person.

*I laugh a lot.

*I like to listen to music while doing my work.

*I am a very good communicator and find it's easy for me to relate to other people.

*I really enjoy learning new things and am constantly seeking out learning opportunities.

*I'm not afraid of failure. In fact, I think it is an essential part of the process that got me to where I am today in my life.

*I know how to speak three different languages: English, French, and Creole.

*I've been the Vice President of the International Employee Resource Group (IEGAP) for over four years.

What led you to a career in Facilities / Construction? - I began my career in contracts working for an international company in telecommunications. I was traveling all over the globe and when I started having a family, I could not continue with the travel demands. When I came to Princeton University, working and meeting the Contracts team, they took the time to show me all aspects of the facilities/construction side of contracts. I saw how efficient and organized they were in the way they managed the contracts and solicitation process. The FPO team has a positive and adaptive culture, and trust. I wanted to be a part of this great team, grow with this new opportunity, and expand and share my skills.

Facilities Women in Construction 19.4%

What advice can you share? - My advice to other women, specifically to minority women, is to ignore the stigma when you hear the word Facilities and Construction. Although there is a lack of representation of minority women in this industry. I would tell them that there are so many facets to facilities and construction and their voices matter. There is so much that they can share and contribute to the field to make the changes needed.

Charlotte Browning

Charlotte Browning
Office of the Vice President
Facilities Service Center

Years in Facilities - 12 years

Facilities Project or Area of Focus - I support all Facilities Operations.

Charlotte's Bio - I grew up in a barn, a converted barn dating back to 1750, converted in the 1960s and 1970s, so construction and trips to the hardware store defined my childhood. I trained as a middle school social studies teacher and worked in a local private school for about 20 years. I landed at Princeton University Facilities as a temp and realized that I enjoyed the work and the culture, so I made the career change.

What led you to a career in Facilities / Construction? - By chance, I was offered a temp position in the Facilities Service Center while I was looking for a new teaching job. I enjoyed the work and the culture and the opportunity to apply other knowledge and experiences I have had in my life.

What advice can you share? - Don't be a woman in a man's world; be your strongest self in this world.

"It's okay to try stuff and fail; better than not trying."

Tania Althoff

Tania Althoff
Office of Capital Projects
Project Manager

Years in Facilities - 6 months

Facilities Project or Area of Focus - Science Renovation Projects

Tania's Bio - As a licensed Architect, I've worked for a range of AE design firms and then most recently as a Project Manager for the City of New York's Real Estate Division. I also actively volunteer with various mentoring initiatives including through the AIA (now as an AIANJ Mentorship Committee Member), Syracuse University, and the ACE student program. I love connecting with young architects and especially young women just starting out in the industry.

What led you to a career in Facilities / Construction? - In high school I took an Architecture and Engineering course and absolutely loved it. I did well in both math and art classes and a teacher suggested architecture as a fitting career path. I pursued a Bachelor of Architecture in college and worked at several design firms, then turned to project management / facilities to see the other side of the industry.

What advice can you share? - Go for it! It's a dynamic industry and there is always so much to learn and specialize in. And try to find strong mentors and colleagues to help guide you along your path.

Women in Construction Clip 2

Genevieve Malone
Office of Capital Projects
Project Manager

Years in Facilities - 1 month

Facilities Project or Area of Focus - ES + SEAS - New construction for the Engineering Buildings

Genevieve's Bio - I'm a civil engineer by training, but have worked in construction management since graduation. All my projects have been wildly different -- from an air traffic control tower in Las Vegas, to the Campus Crossroads Project at Notre Dame, to a STEM high school in Atlanta. I'm thrilled to be here to help Princeton build new state-of-the-art engineering facilities, and look forward to many more exciting projects!

What led you to a career in Facilities / Construction? - I've always been fascinated by buildings. When I was little, I wanted to be an architect. That changed when I took a Chicago architecture tour and though I was awed by how beautiful the buildings were, I was more curious about how the buildings got to be so tall. That led me to civil engineering. During college I had an internship with a construction company on a military base. I realized construction was more than just office buildings and houses, and really liked the creativity behind each space. When I was in construction, I realized it's more than building just anything -- it's creating a physical space to solve a problem. Knowing more about why the buildings were being built piqued my interest. Being on the owner's side gives me an appreciation for the end users, and I'm excited to give faculty and students resources to continue finding new solutions to the world's most pressing issues.

What advice can you share? - It's not easy. But if you can find people who support you through the tough times, cheer you on your successes, and offer solid advice, it makes a world of difference.

Lorine Murray-Mechini

Lorine Murray-Mechini
Office of Capital Projects
Senior Program Manager

Years in Facilities - 9 years

Facilities Project or Area of Focus - I managed the JRR/LAS, Childcare, Robertson Hall projects and the final phases of the Firestone Library renovation. I am now a Program Manager of the Science Portfolio.

Lorine's Bio - I am a registered architect with over 30 years of experience. I started my career in private practice, initially as an intern and ascending to a principal at my firm. I've been at the University now nine years and understand the value of work in an institution, supporting lasting stewardship of the facilities and campus, and enabling the mission of teaching and research. At this stage in my career, it is important to mentor, guide, and support others. Understand that we need individual collective efforts to meet our common goals.

What led you to a career in Facilities / Construction? - My father is an architect and at a young age he took me to job sites to hold the end of the measuring tape. Note that in his architectural class there was one female architect. I graduated with a class that was split 50/50.

What advice can you share? - Know that your contributions matter. Be confident and assertive. Go for it! Someone once told me “Don’t sweat it – just be yourself.”

A few recommendations:

- Be an active listener, assure everyone has a voice, seek diversity

- Build trust, communication, and develop relationships

- Collaborate and bring people together, lead and motivate others, enhance efficiency, and assure synergy

- Embody our core values (teamwork, innovation, integrity, inclusiveness, respect, and sustainability)

"Go For It!"

Esther Walter

Esther Walter
Office of the Vice President
Executive Assistant to Kyu Whang

Years in Facilities - 2 years

Facilities Project or Area of Focus - n/a

Esther's Bio - I worked in Facilities Management in higher education from 2010 to 2015, providing front-line customer service to users and administrative support to leadership. After moving to support executive leadership at two large corporations, I knew I wanted to get back to working in a facilities department. When I saw the job posting at Princeton I couldn't believe it! It seemed like everything I wanted, and the same holds true two years later. I am so happy to be working in Facilities and at Princeton.

What led you to a career in Facilities / Construction? - I was at the right place at the right time to join the Facilities department at Drew University at the beginning of a reorganization. I learned quickly all the functions of a facilities department by joining a small organization that was being rebuilt. I loved working with and for people that made things better.

What advice can you share? - Working in facilities can be so rewarding -- if some of the work interests you, go for it!

Nandini Mukhopadhyay

Nandini Mukhopadhyay
Operations - Civil Engineering
Civil Engineer

Years in Facilities - 4 months

Facilities Project or Area of Focus - I'm currently working on utility coordination for Butler Interim Dining, Hobson College, Residential College, ES&SEAS, and other projects within the Civil Engineering & Construction Department.

Nandini's Bio - I have a background in Civil Engineering. I grew up mostly in New Jersey and have worked in PA and NY. I'm very grateful to join the team here at Princeton University and for the opportunity to work not only with other women in construction, but with all of the individuals who make our campus an exceptional place.

What led you to a career in Facilities / Construction? - I am fortunate enough to have been surrounded by people who have supported me and continue to do so in so many ways. I've had some incredible role models to look up to along my career path. I've been exposed to different parts of the field. Most importantly, it offers a balance of both technical knowledge and field knowledge which can be applied to all aspects of life. The interactions I experience each day are what make a career in facilities/construction unique.

What advice can you share? - If I could give any advice to women who may be considering a career in facilities/construction, it is to seek what interests them. Often it seems that what we are looking for has an answer with a beginning and an end, but that isn't the case. There is always more to learn and we can only learn by exploring and seeing what's underneath the surface. Be an inspiration to others and always surround yourself with those who inspire you.

Karen Fanning

Karen Fanning
Office of the Vice President
Project Communication Manager

Years in Facilities - 9 months

Facilities Project or Area of Focus - I coordinate between all construction projects within the Facilities department.

Karen's Bio - Before joining the Facilities team I spent 20+ years in the construction management industry working in various capacities including as a field engineer, project manager, purchasing agent, preconstruction manager, and estimator. I am a member of the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW) and New Jersey Professional Women in Construction (NJPWC). I have mentored young women and men interested in entering STEM studies and construction throughout my adult life and am grateful for any opportunity to share knowledge and promote this industry! I love to run, cycle, or snowboard any chance I can. My husband and I have two daughters (Colleen and Lauren), who bring positive energy and innovative ideas to each day.

What led you to a career in Facilities / Construction? - I graduated from Bucknell University with a BS Civil Engineering degree. I was immediately drawn to the construction side of Civil Engineering versus design. I love the process of construction and sharing the technology behind the built environment.

What advice can you share? - Facilities and construction are places where relationships, trust, and hard work allow you to excel as part of a team. The ability to learn something new and the chance to think critically every single day are so rewarding. There are tremendous opportunities for women and men alike in this industry. Go for it!

Cathy Altadonna and Alexis Mutschler

Alexis Mutschler (right)
Operations
Assistant Director, Special Projects

Years in Facilities - 10+ years

Facilities Project or Area of Focus - I work on a variety of Major Maintenance and H.S.A. funded projects. Most recently, I added an elevator to Nassau Hall to make it more accessible for our students and faculty.

Alexis's Bio - I received a BS in Civil Engineering from Lehigh University. I've worked on a variety of projects, including the construction of the Great Lakes Crossing Mall in Auburn Hills, Michigan; Diplomat Resort and Country Club in Hollywood, Florida; and an Embassy in Washington, DC, to name a few. I like to crochet and knit as hobbies and I have two kids (Delaney & Luke). After living in Michigan, and on the beach in Florida, I can't imagine living more than an hour from a beach again.

What led you to a career in Facilities / Construction? - I was enrolled in college with the hope to be a pediatric cardiologist. Two weeks before school started, I cut my hand, saw the blood and decided the medical field was not for me. My father, having a great deal of patience and foresight, had me change my major to engineering with the understanding that I can always go to medical school with an undergraduate degree in engineering. The summer after freshman year, I worked at a construction company, and learned how to lay brick, drive a forklift, climb steel, lay concrete, and I was sold on a career in construction. I've never regretted my decision.

What advice can you share? - If you have a passion for working in construction or facilities, do it.