Year of the Woman: Rebecca Stack
The Alliance is featuring influential women of the Chesapeake during the Year of The Woman. This month, our very own Queen Richardson wrote a blog about one of her mentors, Rebecca Stack. Check out Queen’s blog below.
This month’s Year of the Woman feature is Rebecca Stack, the owner and sole principal of Designgreen, LLC, a civil engineering firm with a design philosophy that integrates ecological principles with engineering practices. Her company also focuses on science communication, community engagement and regulatory compliance. Rebecca was recommended to spotlight by our DC team.
Rebecca grew up in Washington, DC, in the Rock Creek area and said that exploring the city’s great cultural institutions and immense park systems really sparked her interest and love for urban forests. “A Saturday trip to the Natural History Museum and a Sunday trek through Rock Creek Park were routine when I was young. I believe these are the bookends that drew me to my current work and helped develop a profound love for urban forests.” She also talked about how her uncle inspired her and contributed to her interest in engineering. “Many women I meet in the engineering profession had an engineer in the family that inspired their choice. For me, it was an uncle, but he was an art historian. He introduced me to Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches of machine inventions and took me to the model hall of the Smithsonian American Art Museum filled with 3-D patent models.”
Due to her interest in engineering, Rebecca went to Northeastern University where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering. Shortly after, she attended The City University of New York, where she earned her Master’s Degree in Urban Education. She landed her first engineering job as a plan controller for a construction site and quickly moved up to field assistant and then to site superintendent. Although she loved working outdoors, she felt that the construction site had lost its appeal and she left the industry to work in public education.
Rebecca explained how working in education helped her get back into the engineering field. “I rediscovered my love of engineering in Central Park while tracking a conservation shoreline restoration project with students. Exploring the design and engineering of this project enticed me back to graduate school.” She decided to go back to school to the University of Maryland and for a Ph.D. ABD in Ecological Engineering. While in school she met a variety of seminal figures in the Ecological Engineering field. After graduating, she began working with DC’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) as a Low Impact Development (LID) Specialist. She helped create and administer green roof incentives, managed multiple LID retrofit projects, and provided technical guidance for on-site stormwater management.
She then transitioned to becoming their Senior Environmental Engineer.
“Working at DOEE helped me understand how things get done and why they sometimes don’t get done. It was this understanding of the mechanics of local government that gave me the confidence to move forward with my own company. I think this knowledge is a key asset for clients. Whether you are a small local nonprofit or big company, the inner workings of government are generally obscure and difficult to navigate. I think that insight is a great advantage.”
After her time at DOEE, Rebecca created her own engineering consultant business to integrate sustainable ecological principles into urban landscapes and has been doing this work since 2016.
When I asked Rebecca about female role models in her life, she said she has always been surrounded by fiercely independent women. “My grandmother was a milliner and had her own business–a lady’s hat shop on the lower east side of NYC. My mother was a journalist who followed and wrote about social issues. I was lucky to study with a great female thinker during my graduate work. Cindi Katz at the Graduate Center C.U.N.Y was my Masters advisor. Her work at the intersection of Environmental Sciences and Psychology opened my thinking around space, play, place and nature. Her thoughtfulness and kindness gave me the courage to pursue ideas outside traditional engineering constraints.”
I then asked how she plans on celebrating the Year of the Woman, her response was,
“There are two keyways that I will celebrate. One is to vote. Voting is a hard fought for right and I intend to celebrate that success by exercising the right and encouraging others to do the same. The second is by joining and being active in the Women’s Chamber of Commerce. I have generally shied away from women specific organization but after attending a business matchmaking event hosted by the WCC earlier this year, I was impressed with the women I met there, several of whom I am now pursuing collaborations with for new business opportunities.”