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A Change of Heart Opens New Career Path

Ever since he was young, Don Gray thought he wanted to be an architect. His grandmother liked to draw and his father was interested in architecture and they often drafted together.

“That’s what I did for fun, drawing designs of houses,” Gray said.

With that dream in mind, Gray, a first-generation college student who grew up in McCall, decided to attend the University of Idaho in Moscow and enroll in the College of Art and Architecture. After graduating with his bachelor’s in 2011, he married his high school sweetheart and the couple moved to Boise, where Gray enrolled in U of I Boise’s master’s in architecture program and started an internship with a local architecture firm. As he learned more about the industry, Gray found his interests lay elsewhere, and he decided he want to study law and construction litigation.

“I realized that as an architect, when you move up the ladder you do less design work and do more client and business oriented work, including serving as a client representative in dealing with contractors and regulatory compliance,” Gray said. “I envisioned myself doing that and, to me, it made more sense to go into law and apply what I already knew about architecture. Pay and the time investment were also decisive factors, but I never intended to abandon architecture all together.”

The news was shocking to his parents, who were worried that after six years of schooling, adding three more would be too much.

“I told them about my plans just a few weeks before graduating with my master’s in architecture, so they were surprised, but they understood,” Gray said.

At the time, Gray and his wife wanted to stay in the Boise area. But the U of I College of Law only offered law classes for third-year students in Boise, with plans to expand the program. Gray didn’t want to move back to Moscow to attend classes.

“I knew that the U of I College of Law was likely going to offer the second year of law school in Boise, so we decided I’d start year one at Concordia and then transfer to U of I as soon as it opened the second year program in Boise,” he said.

Gray’s family, his wife, and his friends have been crucial during his university years. His parents helped to support him during undergraduate school, and his wife helped support him during his academic career, during which he was only able to work part time.

“Balancing part-time work, school and finding time for my family and leisure was challenging to me,” Gray said. “I knew I had to commit to the time investment if I wanted to finish.”

The investment has paid off, and Gray will receive his Juris Doctor in May 2016. He’s looking forward to his new career in construction litigation. He currently works part-time at Meuleman Law Group in Boise and plans to move to a full-time position after passing his bar exam.

He encourages others whose passions lie outside their academic degree to capitalize on what they have already learned and widen their perspective and opportunities.

“Personally, I don’t think any degree is worthless and you can apply your knowledge to other aspects of the field,” Gray said. “For me that’s what happened; I’ll be working in the same industry after I graduate.”

Article by Maria Ortega, University of Idaho Boise

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