Sometimes our career paths are clear at very early ages. More often, our paths reveal themselves when we’re in the middle of something else, as happened to UH Mānoa graduate Alison Nakatani Heraclio. While she taught remedial reading to elementary-schoolers in Tucson, Arizona architects and engineers interviewed her and other teachers for the school’s rebuilding project. Alison was fascinated. A whole new world opened up for her, she says, and she announced to her mother, “I know what I want to be when I grow up!”
She worked part-time at a small architectural firm while earning her master’s degree at the UH Mānoa School of Architecture, and her second master’s degree launched her into a new, colorful career that included stints with John Hara & Associates, Lively Architects, and Ala Moana Shopping Center.
She served first as tenant coordinator, then as director of tenant coordination for Ala Moana majority owner General Growth Properties Inc., now called GGP Inc. In this role, she oversaw tenants’ design and construction on several GGP properties in Hawai‘i. She retired in May 2016 after 19 years with GGP.
The Kalani High School alumna cites her parents Patricia and Charles Nakatani for instilling the importance of expressing one’s appreciation.
She has volunteered with community organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, and recently founded the Alison Nakatani Heraclio Endowed Scholarship for students pursuing graduate degrees in architecture at UH Mānoa. Future Hawai‘i architects will now receive a hand from a graduate who’s been where they are today, whether they’ve always known their path or, like Alison, found it later in an unlikely place.