Girl Scouts are known for reaching the pinnacles of success in their lives, especially Highest Award recipients! Girl Scout Alumna Marsha Hoffman gave a whole new meaning to reaching for the sky by becoming an architect who is literally building the city around her. Recently she was a judge for the 2016 Cookie Construction event at Crown Center in KCMO, showing her continued dedication to Girl Scouts! This inspiring alumna shows that earning the Highest Award can lead girls to new heights in their lives.
Marsha started her journey in Girl Scouts in Emporia, KS as a Brownie and continued through high school. She enjoyed camping and the outdoor activities that Girl Scouts offered. Her favorite Girl Scout memory, however, came in high school when her troop produced a play to raise funds for a trip to New York City. The troop secured the rights to a show, created all the costumes, sets, props and even put out a call for actors and held auditions. The money they raised funded their trip to New York City for a week.
On the trip they stopped in Philadelphia, saw a Broadway play, went to Rockefeller Center and did the traditional New York tourist stuff. “We did everything in New York, I don’t know how they packed it all in!” Marsha said.
Traveling with Girl Scouts was one of her favorite parts of her experience because of the feeling of freedom it gave her. “The trip gave us the feeling of freedom to do anything. I’m not sure if that instilled the travel bug in me or not, but we didn’t travel much as a family, yet I have always loved to travel and I’ve always loved New York, so maybe it did,” Marsha said.
By the end of high school, Marsha earned her First Class award because it was something that was always a goal she planned to achieve. “It was always a goal to earn [the First Class award]. So working through each of the badges to make sure you made it to that point…it was always what I wanted to do. I enjoyed the experience of getting all the badges,” Marsha said.
After graduating, Marsha went to K-State and got a degree in Architecture and Design Planning. At K-State she was able to take part in a 5 year program that included an internship for some of the last years in the program. With the travel bug instilled in her, she jumped on the opportunity and spent about 8 months of each year in Texas. After graduating, she moved to Texas and spent about 5 years working on buildings in the southwest. “I really enjoyed the cultural and diversity in San Antonio. I enjoyed the freedom you had with architecture and design because they weren’t afraid of color or art,” Marsha said.
From there she moved to Washington D.C. and spent five years as part of a firm, Architectural Design Group and running her own design firm, called Designer Studio. After time on the East Coast, she returned to the Midwest and lives in Kansas City. There, she found a home at SFS Architecture where she is a principal. She’s able to be involved in every part of the design process and really feel invested in every project. “There isn’t a part of the design process that I don’t enjoy. There’s a lot of satisfaction when you get a building built. You have to work with a wide diversity of people on every project. Being a team is really important. You have a great feeling when you see the end result,” Marsha said.
In particular, she’s been working on a lot of public buildings, where she really feels like she’s adding to Kansas City. “When you work in the public sector, you want a design that the public feels is a quality building that will last them a long time,” Marsha said. Some building Marsha has worked on are the renovations of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Kansas City, renovations of the King Louis building in Overland Park, KS and on the Reynolds journalism building at the MU.
As an alumna, Marsha helped with leadership workshops and is now helping the girls involved in Cookie Construction. Her continued involvement stems from a belief that Girl Scouts played a positive role in her life. “Girl Scouts had a huge impact in my life because it taught me that I wasn’t limited. No one told me I couldn’t do something in Girl Scouts. I think it’s so important for girls to know you’re not limited by someone else’s thoughts or opinions,” Marsha said.
Marsha also strongly believes that women should do a better job of helping other women, especially by promoting female awards like the Gold Award. “Sometimes I think women are more competitive with one another and men do a good job of helping one another. As women, we have to start doing a better job of pulling other people up and supporting other women,” Marsha said. Of course, having a strong Girl Scout sisterhood helps that! We hope all girls in Girl Scouts aim to lift one another higher and promote their successes.
Thank you to Marsha for your incredible work with Girl Scouts, for inspiring women and as an architect of Kansas City. If you know of a Highest Award Alumna who is inspiring girls, share in the comments below!