Brandon McBrien graduated in May from the University of Arizona with bachelor’s degrees in architecture, regional planning, and business management. Given the long tail of the current economic recession, he and his classmates face uncertain job prospects whether they have three undergraduate degrees or one. Still, McBrien, a native of Iowa, remains optimistic about opportunities in architecture. “Regional development allowed me to look at the macro scale, business management gave me a foundation in economics, and architecture allowed me to synthesize my design ideas,” he says. “I hope to be an architect that can respond in a thoughtful and meaningful way to this current generation’s values.”
My chosen profession, and the degree I was pursuing first, was architecture. I began my two minors—one in regional development and the other in business management—but quickly realized I needed to find a fuller way to complement my design aspirations. As I got further into the minors, I found them to be interesting and very much related to architecture. So I figured if I could push myself a little harder, I could do all three as majors.
For me, I didn’t feel like I had to make a huge effort to synthesize the three disciplines. They naturally fit. But I always tried to relate some of the more exclusive questions about each field to the other fields. If I read something in the Harvard Business Review or Businessweek, for instance, I’d ask about how those questions related to design.
For the most part, a lot of my classmates weren’t aware I was pursuing so many degrees. I’m not a secretive person, but I wasn’t announcing it on a regular basis. The core friends I had in studio were really supportive of me doing this and extremely flexible in helping me manage my time during group projects. My other majors were intense, sure, but in the end I spent more time on architecture than on the other two majors combined. It was difficult because I kept very different studio hours, so that level of camaraderie that you have in the studio was not always available to me. But I had a very wide spectrum of people I interacted with across other fields, and I made a lot of friends outside of the College of Architecture.
I was raised with a strong consciousness for community service. I wanted my degrees to mean something and incorporate a sense of giving back through architecture. I originally hoped to own my own firm at a certain point, but once I learned about all the components of running a business, I decided that aligning myself with an established firm that paralleled my own values is a better idea—a firm that has a sense of corporate responsibility.
So that is my first long-term goal. I also have an interest in managing groups and exploring business strategies—even at the same time I love that I practice architecture. My dream job would involve design work, but also helping to make strategic decisions about growth. -As told to William Richards