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Rice alumna brings faith to life beyond high school

Rice Memorial High School alumna Emeline Gaujac has successfully bridged the gap between adolescence and adulthood, and she credits her Catholic high school education with fostering the “values and morals of what being faithful is all about.”

She is the daughter of Lisa and Roland Gaujac of Charlotte, parishioners of Christ the King Church in Burlington, and a 2010 graduate of Rice, located in South Burlington.

Now a resident of Somerville, Mass., she works as a designer at Prellwitz Chilinski Associates in Cambridge, Mass.

Gaujac, and several colleagues recently entered the Boston Society of Architects’ Northern Avenue Bridge Ideas Competition and won the People’s Choice Award for “Pivot Point Bridge.” The bridge, which opened in 1908, was closed in 2014 because of structural integrity concerns.

“The main goals of the competition were to improve mobility, honor history and create destination,” Gaujac said. “Our design kept the original structure and twisted the center portion on a pivot to reference the original innovative engineering of its time. The twist creates sweeping ramps that lead down to the water and establish a sense of place for the people to connect to the ocean.”

The contest drew 133 submissions, including 99 graphic designs and 34 essays.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said the ideas from the competition would be helpful in the design for the new bridge.  Gaujac hopes her firm will be selected to become an official consultant on the project.

Her job at Prellwitz Chilinski Associates now includes design in Schematic Design for proposals with towns and cities. “I have also been able to see a private company wellness center through Schematic Design to currently in construction,” she said. “I design everything from retail, to residential multifamily and mixed use. I work on a variety of projects all at once depending on their deadlines and the client’s needs and usually work on at least three projects a week.”

Gaujac earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Northeastern University in 2015. She is currently in the process of studying for credentials to improve sustainable design at the firm, which involves designing objects with the principles of social, economic and ecological sustainability.

Through her firm, Gaujac is also able to give back to the less fortunate. She volunteers with Canstruction (a food drive charity event) and has donated time to designing a Habitat for Humanity project.

Her firm hosts charity drives, such as Toys for Tots and On the Rise. Any money raised by one person each up to $500 will be matched by the firm for any charity. “Needless to say I love PCA because their values are in line with my own,” she said. “The culture here is amazing, and the people here never cease to amaze me in their selflessness.”

This culture reminds her of her experience at Rice. The teachers and staff there guided her to learn from her mistakes and taught her to make right decisions. “Rice was a bubble of goodness, faith and appreciation,” she commented. “The moral compass was consistently pointing you toward the right direction, and you knew when you weren’t headed there.”

Sister of Mercy Laura DellaSanta, Rice principal, said the values of goodness, faith and appreciation Gaujac mentioned are at the core of the school’s mission. There students learn those values in all aspects of school life — faith activities, academics, athletics, theater, community service — and they help one another, growing and learning from one another and the adults there to support them. 

“We are trying to feed the seeds within them and nurture the gifts God has given them,” she said. Rice as “a bubble of goodness, faith and appreciation” indeed “says it all.”

Leaving Rice and getting older “popped that bubble in a rude awakening that is the world we live in,” Gaujac continued. “Not everyone lives in a town like Burlington, and not everyone grew up understanding right from wrong in the most basic sense; for example, that every person should be treated with respect and are equal. Period.” 

She would like to become an architect and begin her own firm, one that designs buildings to create art and gives back to the community. She’d also like to be a part-time university architecture professor.

“​I am blessed to have found a profession that I love,” Gaujac said. “I finish work every day a little tired but always with a smile on my face.”

She tries to design to improve the quality of the way people live every day. “If I am successful, then the extra hours I choose to spend at work and at home will all be worth it,” she said.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.
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