Women of PCSD: Mary Grace Houlihan, Project Director, Northern California

For Women’s History Month, PCSD highlighted the many extraordinary women who guide our charter school partners through the complex facilities development process so our partners can focus on what matters most – teaching and learning.

How long have you worked at PCSD?

6 months

How did you get into the field of facility development and education?

I graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in geology. While in college, I started working part time drafting for a Civil Engineering and Land Surveying firm. My career followed the Civil Engineering path starting in design of schools, housing, commercial development and public infrastructure for over 35 years. I am a registered Civil Engineer and Land Surveyor, former Public Works Director and manager at BART. Through my work, I held positions on the public and private sector sides working directly with the public as part of community-based planning and design and infrastructure management. Some of my most fulfilling projects have been to land grants and oversee permitting and design of community centers, schools, and public and private infrastructure serving undeserved communities.

Throughout my career, I have given my time and support to a number of nonprofit organizations. I volunteered with Odyssey of the Mind, was on the board of Rotary, Planning Commission and was a Girl Scout troop leader and Association Coordinator. When I retired from the public sector, I wanted to find an opportunity where I could combine my philanthropic interests with my technical background. When I saw the opportunity at PCSD, it seemed like a dream come true. PCSD is a place that truly understands diversity. My family and I believe it’s important to move the needle and create a more balanced world. We believe education is where it’s going to happen!

What advice would you give young women entering this field?

We have to support other women and encourage them to take chances and make mistakes. It’s important to have all voices heard. A few tips that have helped me in my career:

You should never say you are sorry.
Always do your best.
Ask questions.
Let your voice be heard.
Don’t ever apologize for bringing up questions.
Be the voice for other women.
Confirm other women’s ideas publicly.