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Alum Rob Pivovarnick Builds Solid Career with Start in MCCC Architecture Program


For MCCC alum Rob Pivovarnick ’02 (A.S., Architecture), the challenge in life wasn’t deciding what profession he wanted to pursue; it was deciding where and how to pursue it.  With a close family member who is both a Mercer alum and an architect, Pivovarnick ultimately zeroed in on Mercer and he is glad he did.

“I knew I liked art and drawing from the time I was a kid,” Pivovarnick said.  While attending Nottingham High School, he enrolled in mechanical drawing courses, which became the first step towards his future career.

That progression continued when at age 16, Pivovarnick started working for his uncle, Ted Pivovarnick, also a Mercer alum, at Princeton Junction Engineering.  He then moved on to an internship in Pennington with architect Peter Lokhammer.  Among his intern duties were assisting with the drafting and design of plot plans for new developments, as well as additions and alterations to high end homes.  “I realized early on that architecture is a way to express my artistic side through a structured occupation,” he said.

With his uncle’s positive experience as an architecture student at MCCC and the low cost of tuition, Mercer was a natural choice for Pivovarnick when it came time for college.

Pivovarnick found the curriculum both challenging and stimulating, and realized he had real talent for the field. “You really have to like it if you’re going to pursue a degree in architecture,” said Pivovarnick.  “If you don’t, you won’t make it through your degree.”

Mercer alum Rob Pivovarnick ’02

That’s what makes Mercer a great start for an education, he noted.  “At Mercer, you don’t get pushed out if you’re not sure what you want to do,” he said.  “It’s a great place to find yourself and explore different majors until you find your passion.”

Pivovarnick credited Architecture Professor Garry Perryman for being a very influential part of his education.  “He was always good at being objective about our work without being overly critical,” he said, adding that he admired his teacher’s nurturing approach in the classroom.

It was Perryman who introduced him to Ben Catarinicchia, a Mercer alum who owned an architectural company called C-Squared in Hamilton.  Pivovarnick was an intern there for close to three years.

Mercer helped Pivovarnick in ways he hadn’t initially anticipated.  “Client and public presentations are a big part of architecture,” he said.  He credits Kathi Paluscio, associate professor of Communication, with helping him overcome his fears of speaking before a group.  “I was always very wary of it before taking her class,” he added.

Pivovarnick also found ways to get much from his Mercer experience outside the classroom, taking advantage of many extracurricular activities at the college including the Student Activities Board and Jazz Band.  “I enjoyed my time at Mercer; I made a lot of great friends that I still talk to,” he said.

After completing his associate’s degree in 2002, Pivovarnick continued his education at Philadelphia University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Architecture in 2005.  Shortly after he was hired as an intern at CUH2A, where he was later promoted to architectural coordinator.  Through his job he has had many opportunities to travel, particularly during the 18 months he worked as the building information modeling (BIM) coordinator, flying around the country presenting and teaching others about this new architectural technology.

In 2007, the company merged with HDR, a global employee-owned firm providing architecture, engineering, consulting and construction services.  The company boasts 7,800 employees nationwide, with projects in 60 different countries.

Among the projects that Pivovarnick has worked on are the New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company facility, the largest private construction project in the state in 2010, and the Research Institute of Infectious Diseases facility in Fort Detrick, MD, a $680 million project.  His most recent project was the Humber River Regional Hospital in Toronto, Canada, which will be the first truly digital hospital when it is completed in 2015. 

Currently, Pivovarnick is helping design a learning deck at the Lawrence Nature Center as part of the Young Professionals Group at HDR.  They are volunteering their time and expertise to design the project, but are still seeking funds to pay for the materials.  More information about the project can be found here.

“My job is very rewarding; I get to work on buildings that help people,” said Pivovarnick.  “Our job as architects is to take someone’s dream and make it a reality.”

While at Philadelphia University he met his wife Victoria, who was also studying architecture and currently works for KSS Architects in Princeton. 

Looking ahead, Pivovarnick would like to own his own firm someday.  Right now, however, he is working on getting through his Architectural Registration Exams.  There are a total of seven exams he has to sit for in order to become a licensed architect.

Still, Pivovarnick is ever eager to dig into the next big project.  “Someday I’d like to design a stadium,” he said.

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