For architecture major Abigail Shane, life is about moments and interactions. She believes they each happen for a reason – and right now, Shane is living in a pretty good moment.

This past year, Shane earned a Simpson Strong-Tie Student Scholarship and with it, was awarded $2,000 and a trip to California to tour Simpson Strong-Tie’s laboratories and manufacturing facilities.

“I feel really fortunate to have won the scholarship,” said Shane. “It has given me a confidence boost knowing that outside sources can see my potential.”

While touring their facilities, Shane was able to test some of Simpson Strong-Tie’s tools, learn about their production, and see how they are used in the construction industry.

Abigail Shane and another student tour a construction site.
Abigail Shane learns from a professional at a construction site.

Shane also met many professionals, including Simpson Strong-Tie CEO, Karen Colonias.

“Meeting Karen Colonias was inspiring,” said Shane. “I want to be a powerful woman in the industry.”

What Shane has enjoyed most about the scholarship experience is the strong communication line between her and Jim Mattison, outreach coordinator for Simpson Strong-Tie.

“The constant communication from Jim has been awesome,” said Shane. “Jim tries to keep in contact and that really shows that Simpson Strong-Tie cares about their students.”

For Simpson Strong-Tie and Mattison, the scholarship is an investment.

“We don’t want to just award a scholarship and never be heard from again. We want to invest in our recipients by getting to know them, understanding their job and career aspirations and helping them make connections in the building industry,” said Mattison. “Today’s architecture, engineering and construction management students are tomorrow’s designers and end-users of our products, and we have a vested interest in their success no matter which direction their work-lives take them.”

Sawdust and rooftops

If you spoke to Shane about this achievement, she would simply say it is only more fuel to her fire.

With her father being a general contractor, Shane grew up running through sawdust and playing on rooftops. She grew a passion for architecture early on. During her sophomore year of high school, she designed an orphanage for fun.

“At the time, my grandparents were in Ethiopia on a mission trip and asked my dad to design an orphanage. Then my dad suggested I design it, just for fun,” said Shane. “I drew some sketches and now it’s actually being built. That was an early experience of how fun this field could be.”

An important interaction

In 2014, during the middle of Shane’s freshman year, her brother passed away. Shane returned home and almost didn’t come back to finish the school year. Shane returned to WSU, but found it difficult to catch up on her classes.

As Shane struggled to finish the school year, many of her peers encouraged her return, while others suggested she go back home.

“She told me I was too young to give up on my dreams. She was at the right place at the right time.”
—Abigail Shane

“I was at a point where I just felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. I started crying and the only thing I thought was, ‘I need to go and pack my things- I’m going home, I’m done,’” said Shane.

Just as she was ready to pack up and leave her studio in Carpenter Hall, a custodian walked in and asked her what was wrong.

Shane credits this interaction as one of the biggest moments that helped her choose to stay.

“She told me I was too young to give up on my dreams,” said Shane. “She was at the right place at the right time.”

Shane completed her freshman year, and says the experience taught her perseverance. She expects to graduate this May and wants to pursue a career in commercial and residential architecture and, eventually, become licensed architect to own her own residential architect firm.

“I know I’m supposed to be an architect,” said Shane. “The experiences I have had in my life have only furthered my passion.”


Join Simpson Strong-Tie engineers and field specialists for a day of Building Connections where you’ll learn how structural connectors and pre-engineered building components help structures perform safely. You will also acquire useful tips and insightful perspectives that will help you build your career path. Hear stories from building industry professionals about their career journeys in structural engineering, architecture and construction management. Learn more at https://vcea.wsu.edu/simpson-strong-tie-symposium/