• Student Stories: Chris & Monique Pagnotta

  • Architectural Engineering Technology

    When Chris Pagnotta, 24, enrolled in MHCC’s Architectural Engineering Technology program he got more than just a degree, he also met his future wife and business partner Monique.

    Since he was a child, Pagnotta was interested in designing homes and always thought that required a four-year architectural degree. However, when he started to research the curriculum of various architectural programs, Pagnotta wasn’t convinced they were right for him.

    “If I’d wanted to design large office buildings, then becoming an architect would have been the right choice,” Pagnotta said, “but I wanted to do home design.”

    Pagnotta met with Architectural Engineering Technology program adviser, Mike Brayson, who explained that the AET program would teach house design, AutoCad skills and engineering, which would give Pagnotta the flexibility to qualify for a number of career paths.

    “There are so many avenues you can pursue with this degree,” Pagnotta said. “None of the classes are fluff. I learned critical thinking skills, technical report writing, and structural design. I feel confident that with the skills I learned at MHCC, I can get a job anywhere.”

    Pagnotta also liked the way Brayson ran his classes as a business.

    “Mike has a lot of industry experience, so he expects students to perform just as they would if they were on the job. They have to show up for class on time, fill out timecards and document how much time they spend working on their projects,” Pagnotta said. “Being late with an assignment is the same as not delivering plans to a customer, it’s just not acceptable.”

    Another feature of the program that worked in Pagnotta’s favor was that AET students also take some of the same classes as Mechanical and Civil Engineering Technology students. Not only did it give him an exposure to all three engineering disciplines, it’s also where he met his wife, Monique, a mechanical engineering student.
    “Chris and I got to know each other when we worked together on team projects for classes,” said Monique Pagnotta.

    Monique, 24, was enrolled in the technical-prep program at Reynolds High School as a mechanical engineering intern at Boeing. Monique began drafting in high school with AutoCad and also has a keen interest in home design.

    “As long as I can remember I loved to draw, especially houses,” Monique said.

    With their common interest in building design as the icebreaker, it wasn’t long before they got to know each other on a personal basis. Chris and Monique were engaged shortly before their graduation in 1998 and were married a year later.

    Monique went to work for a civil engineering firm and Chris started working with a local building designer. After about a year and a half of running his own design business on a part-time basis, Chris decided it was time to devote his energies to Pagnotta Home Design. Chris now works at home running the business while Monique still has a full-time job and helps out with the paperwork evenings and weekends. Thanks to positive word-of-mouth from satisfied customers, Pagnotta describes his business as “steady” with many of his homes being built in Fairview, Sandy and Boring.

    “The AET program gave me a good base of knowledge, and along with the instructor’s willingness to share his industry experience, I felt very well-prepared to start my own business,” Pagnotta said.