- Staff report
First lecture of the semester from the EPCC Architecture Society
STORY AND PHOTOS BY EDUARDO DIAZ
Renée Jiménez talking to students for the EPCC Architecture Society.
On February 10th, the EPCC Architecture Society hosted its first lecture of the semester, with a special guest being Renée Jiménez, CEO of MNK Architects. The EPCC Architecture Society held the first out of 3 lectures they provide the school every semester.
This time, the lecture was given by Renée Jimenez, a local from the community and the current CEO of MNK Architects. She is also a graduate from the architecture program here at EPCC. MNK Architects is a local award-winning firm in El Paso that has been around for 35 years.
They are mainly recognized for their work on schools as they describe, "our work focuses on educational projects and 21st-century learning environments." Recent projects from MNK include constructing and remodeling schools such as Belair high school and Burges high school. Before the lecture began, her sons were passing around tootsie rolls to the incoming audience.
This might seem random, but it was a critical segway as the first part of the lecture was about how she started her business career. After a 5.00 dollar loan from her parents, she bought and sold around 760 tootsie rolls.
This was a trend that architect Jiménez built off as she continued acquiring different kinds of candy and selling them to whoever she could. Eventually, this grew to also selling snow cones, popcorn, etc. Through this experience, she was able to realize that "planning and preparation was the key to becoming anything."
She kept on looking for ways to earn money throughout her education. She eventually stared at a crossroads where she wasn't sure college was the right option. While working as a waitress, she could make more money than her mom as a teacher, so why should she pursue a higher education?
But then, she recalls a moment when one of her substitute teachers told her class that the odds of the class graduating college was 0. She decided to take this as a challenge. From there, she went to a counselor here at EPCC and decided to go for number 7 on the list,
architecture. She decided to make the most of it here at EPCC by making the first architecture club at the school. One of her actions as club president was organizing tours throughout universities in Texas.
These tours made her settle on Texas A&M, as it was the only school that would fully accept her credits, as she mentions, "it's all about efficiency for me." These were some of her first actions with the architecture profession in her story. She went on to acquire internships even if she was working. She would seek out every opportunity to sharpen her skills. She states that "if you want to thrive in this profession, you need to have a hunger to learn."
After graduating from Texas A&M she moved to Phoenix. After interviewing on 19 firms, she landed a job at DWL Architects where she was able to work on projects like the Sky Harbor airport. In 2005 she would back with her husband to El Paso. She found the opportunity to work at MNK Architects.
Although she was initially reluctant to move back to El Paso, she realized that she could make a difference here. She started pushing for better sustainability and eventually began to see success. In the firm, she was able to work in projects like El Paso International Airport of the Digital Wall here in El Paso, which in the West was the first of its kind.
After 5 years after the partners left MNK, she was thrusted into the CEO role. She admits that it was hard at first, but she was not willing to give up. A few months later she got a call from YISD where she was informed MNK won the competition to renovate and construct on Eastwood High School. When she found out what project the firm had won she just started crying of happiness.
This project would go on to win national awards and ended up having a budget of around 92 million dollars.Since then, she and her team, who she describes as being one of the most critical factors in the success story she has experienced at MNK, have kept working on educational projects here in El Paso.
Renée Jiménez shown talking to EPCC students.
Renée Jiménez has excelled all expectations here in El Paso. She makes sure to thank her team and her father for the support and values that have helped her get to this point. She finishes off by encouraging the students, she says "My wish for all of you is to do your best.... and for you to realize your god given greatness."
It was a spectacular lecture for the students, as it displayed how Renée Jiménez could get to where she is in life through hard work and persistence. It gives a clear picture on how the professional paths on architecture might develop, and how working in a team and having drive to learn will always pay off in the end.
If you wish to visit their site here is the link: https://www.mnkarchitects.com/