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Janice Suchan: Designing educational buildings rocks her world

Janice Suchan

A ’94 graduate of the School of Architecture, Janice Suchan has built a skyscraper of a career by translating clients’ needs into buildings that feature unique and inspiring environments and are sustainably designed.

From being a “Lego maniac” as a 5-year-old, she instinctively knew that she liked to build. That desire was nurtured at the architectural design program at Henry Ford II High School in Sterling Heights. When reviewing options for college, she chose U of D (now UDM) based on its balanced architectural curriculum, ideal student-to-faculty ratio, and access to mentors. Obtaining a scholarship to offset tuition was a bonus.

"UDM is well connected to the community and it has become stronger over the years. There's a major focus on urban design and community improvement that I fully support."

—Janice Suchan '94

Suchan worked at three architectural firms as a co-op student, and upon graduating, landed a job at one. At age 33, Suchan was made a partner at SHW Group in Berkley, a large architectural firm with offices nationwide.  In 2010 she was named Young Architect of the Year by the Detroit Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and was honored as one of Crain’s Detroit Business’ 40 rising stars under the age of 40 in 2008.

Those well-earned honors reflect her hard work and commitment to creating inspiring buildings that are cost-effective on many levels. “Sustainable design is a core value of our firm. It’s exciting to see our buildings use only two-thirds of the energy that they did 10 years ago.”

Giving back is integral to Suchan’s career. For six years, she led SHW’s pro-bono work for Haven (a shelter for abused women). She also serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board for the School of Architecture, a multi-disciplinary group that advises on curriculum, fund raising and major initiatives.

“UDM is well connected to the community and it has become stronger over the years. There’s a major focus on urban design and community improvement that I fully support.”

Suchan is also a mentor and supporter to students. She has joined with fellow alumnus Jim Chatas ’89, and her employer to create the SHW-Suchan-Chatas Endowed Scholarship for UDM architecture students.

Her firm typically employs two to three UDM students annually for co-ops, and has hired many UDM graduates over the years