Ask an Alum: Davielle Phillips

A photo of Davielle Phillips with skyscrapers behind him. Stickers read his name and degrees: College of Architecture (2016 & 2019) and College of Business (2019)

Growing up on the southeast side of Chicago sparked an interest in architecture for Davielle Phillips. After graduating from Lane Technical College Prep High School, he headed to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with his sights set on making an impact in his community through design. Now an Architectural Designer at Holland Basham Architects, he’s doing just that—and with a Master of Architecture and a Master of Business Administration from the university under his belt, he’s using what he knows to mentor future Husker graduates.

Talk a little bit about what drew you to architecture.

While growing up on the southeast side of Chicago and traveling around the city with family, I would notice that other neighborhoods looked and felt completely different than the one I lived in; this got me interested in architecture. I would always question why the buildings throughout the city looked the way they did and why my community was seen as poor and unsafe. With these conditions, my family didn’t want me to attend the neighborhood high school, and neither did I. With this in mind, I took the selective enrollment test and got accepted to Lane Tech College Prep High School, where I declared architecture as a major. When deciding on a college to attend, I knew that I wanted to leave Chicago to experience a different way of living, avoid the city’s violence, and make a better living for myself and my family. Also, I wanted to make my community better through design and by giving back. This exploration led me to UNL.

Talk a little bit about being a community leader — serving as a mentor, sitting on exec boards, coming back to the university to speak. Why is that so important for you?

Becoming a community leader was pretty easy for me since community has always been in the front of my mind. I’ve always wanted to be in a position to create positive change and to be a servant leader. I’ve been fortunate to have people who were servant leaders be my mentors; they helped to instill this passion in me as I wouldn’t have made it to where I am without them. Starting from my great grandmother who raised me to the people I work alongside to this day. Our communities are better because people went out of the way to give back to and improve conditions for others; communities need people like this to create positive change and to maintain a good quality of life.

You completed a study abroad program in London. What was it like to be able to apply your skills/knowledge in a real-world setting?

While studying abroad in London, I honestly felt like a native in many ways. Being from a large city, I felt comfortable navigating and exploring on my own. I also made friends with a few people outside of my class and experienced the city from different perspectives: as a tourist, a designer, and from a local/relative perspective.

One of the many things I could relate to was poverty. Although I, fortunately, have never experienced homelessness directly, I have by interacting with and volunteering to help the homeless community through direct experience in Chicago, Lincoln, and London. Also, I have friends who experienced homelessness directly and have listened to their stories. I want to do something about that; so I made my final project in London about creating a Social Enterprise and explored how I can use my skills in architecture and business to make a change. This research strengthened my connection to community efforts and has fueled my “why” as a designer and community builder.

Clockwise from left: Davielle in front of Tower Bridge in London; sitting in the big chair in a museum in Copenhagen; celebrating first-gen pride in the Nebraska Union during undergrad; at a graffiti skate park in London; building a masonry wall for class at Architecture Hall.
Clockwise from left: Davielle in front of Tower Bridge in London; sitting in the big chair in a museum in Copenhagen; celebrating first-gen pride in the Nebraska Union during undergrad; at a graffiti skate park in London; building a masonry wall for class at Architecture Hall.

You now work at Holland Basham Architects. What is your role there and are there any favorite parts of your job?

At Holland Basham, I am an Architectural Designer. I participate in many phases of design, from bringing projects into the office and interviewing for projects, to designing and drafting. I also get to participate in the very fun events that we have such as holiday parties, team-building events like the Market to Market Relay from Omaha to Lincoln, and fellowshipping with my coworkers in and outside of the office.

All of these things are my favorite parts of my job. My absolute favorite thing is that I work with AMAZING people who have become like family to me. I feel fully supported in my goals and ambitions, and I feel that I get to live out my dream to use my skill set to give back. The leadership here at Holland Basham makes sure of that as they believe in me and refuse to let me doubt myself.

Is there one thing you learned in your time at Nebraska that you’ve taken with you and continue to use every day?

One of the biggest lessons from my time at Nebraska is that it takes a village of people who are invested in your success for us to succeed. It takes ambition and perseverance more than anything. I learned that with faith, consistency, and hard work… we can achieve everything we set out to do. I have done that every step of the way.

“Get out of your comfort zone and don’t procrastinate on your dreams”

Was there someone at Nebraska that had a big impact on you?

Each of the individuals listed below has been absolutely instrumental in my success as a student and in my development as a young man. I thank them dearly and I apologize if I missed anyone with this list:

  • Dr. Colleen Jones — Melvin Jones Scholars
  • Dr. Jake Kirkland — Melvin Jones Scholars
  • Kerra Russell — Melvin Jones Scholars
  • Charlie Foster — Assistant Vice Chancellor for Inclusive Student Excellence and Director of the Office of Academic Success and Intercultural Services
  • Dr. Juan Franco — Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
  • Brian Kelly — College of Architecture
  • Mark Hoistad — College of Architecture
  • Amanda Colborn — College of Business

What advice would you give to a college student?

My advice to college students is to get out of your comfort zone and don’t procrastinate on your dreams. I found myself getting stagnant at times because I didn’t take the initiative to ask a question and, at times, I limited myself by trying to do things alone. Once I decided to ask questions, tasks that took me 2–3 hours then took me 10 minutes! Ask questions and take risks; meet and get to know people who are different from you and have different ways of thinking. You’d be surprised with the similarities you have and you’ll learn at a quicker rate.

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