From Design Student to Licensed Architect and the Journey Between

Written By: Nicole McBride

Date: July 27, 2023

From Design Student to Licensed Architect and the Journey Between cover image

Many young people have come through the doors of Parkhill over the years to immerse themselves in the worlds of architects, engineers, interior designers, surveyors, and corporate professionals. After a summer or semester of experience, some of those young people have chosen to stay. They grow into young design professionals, earning their licensure with support from Parkhill, and becoming trusted advisors with their own clients in the communities they serve. Margaret Ragain, AIA, whom Parkhill recently celebrated becoming a licensed architect, is just one of those examples of success. 

Margaret started her journey at Parkhill as a student in 2018. She grew up in Lubbock, Texas, earned her undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University, and returned to Lubbock for her master’s degree at Texas Tech University. She worked as a student intern during the summers and part-time while attending graduate school. This year, she recently earned her architecture license. Parkhill is a community she has been familiar with for most of her life. 

“I first heard about Parkhill in part just from growing up in Lubbock,” she said. “They’re so involved in the Lubbock community, and I knew them just through knowing people at church who worked at Parkhill and family friends who worked at Parkhill.” 

She noticed early on in her work that Parkhill is a community of vast knowledge and that asking questions is something she should never fear. Growth and collaboration are routinely encouraged. Her first design experience was for a large project with collaboration from numerous design professionals and other student interns. They worked in the Lubbock CoLab, a collaborative design studio, and someone was always within reach, whether it was to ask a question or bond with another student.  

Margaret has been a member of the Community Practice for the past five years but has also joined design teams for a few K-12 projects. She learned about the unique perspectives of each group, which helped her further develop her own way of thinking and contributing to her practice. 

“As I have grown with Parkhill, my experiences have changed. You start out as an intern, and you really work on the relationships with other architects and learning how different people do different things,” she said. "The wonderful thing about working on different projects with different architects is you learn that there are multiple ways to come at a problem, and there’s never just one solution.”  

Shortly before the pandemic in 2020, Margaret transferred from Parkhill’s Lubbock office to the Frisco office. Margaret found what she called her “COVID silver lining” and buckled down to study for her architectural licensure exam. Even during a time of social distancing, she stayed connected with her peers in both Lubbock and Frisco, who gave her tips on study materials and cheered her on during her studies. 

“It was so nice to have comradery and have people say, ‘Hey, you can do this!’” she said. 

And Margaret did! Coinciding with earning her licensure, the Dallas Fire Station 36 facility—a project that she had begun working on in grad school—was completed. During its grand opening held in Dallas, Texas, she recalled her experiences of programming and schematic design, the design development checklist, and ultimately visiting the site with construction underway.

“I remember it being such a weird feeling walking around a space that I had spent hours looking at through Revit views and 2D drawings,” she said. “That project is now open. It’s the first project I was able to see from start to finish and visit in person. It’ll be a special place because of that, and it was a fun project to work on.”

Another project special to Margaret for another variety of reasons is Shoreline City Church in Dallas, Texas. 

Before construction started on the project, she said the church celebrated what they called “Miracle Sunday.” Margaret attended and witnessed just how much this project was going to impact this church and their future growth. 

“We talk about building community and getting to see it firsthand in action,” Margaret said. “So going from that last year on Miracle Sunday in their unrenovated church to now every two weeks when I visit, it just looks so different each time. I’m so excited for them to come visit when everything is done. It’s going to be so unrecognizable.” 

She said this was her first project to be comprehensively involved with a client and with integrated project delivery. She was also able to work closely with a contractor from the very beginning of design. 

Knowledge and experience gained from people outside of her practice have been one of Margaret's most valuable experiences at Parkhill. For any young professional looking for experience in design, she believes that tapping into the wide array of knowledge is one of the most unique opportunities they should take advantage of.

“Just because someone is outside of your people group doesn’t mean they’re not your people,” she said. “I really have learned some key things from different engineers I’ve worked with and people outside of my practice. We need to interact with everybody. Good designs can come from anywhere.” 


Margaret Ragain, AIA (Left), and Laura Nickell, IIDA (Right) visit the project site of Shoreline City Church in Dallas, Texas.


(Left to Right) Ricardo Torres, Salvador Sanchez, AIA, Margaret Ragain, AIA, Austen Mathews, AIA, and Michael Howard, AIA, participated in eighth annual Bark + Build in 2022. The event gives back to a local cause benefitting SPCA of North Texas.