Building Better Communities | University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Dwayne Eshenbaugh

Architecture BS ’94
Alumnus of the Year at the College of Fine Arts

Long before he was an award-winning Las Vegas-based architect and ardent humanitarian, Dwayne Eshenbaugh was a teenager with a dream. Unfortunately, that dream ran into an obstacle called reality.

“I discovered a talent for art when I was in high school, mainly drawing and painting in watercolors and acrylics. So at the time, I was considering attending a school of art. art,” says Eshenbaugh, who grew up near Pittsburgh. “However, due to my family’s financial struggles, I couldn’t afford to pursue that dream.”

So instead of going to college, Eshenbaugh followed the example of several members of his family and joined the military, enlisting in the United States Air Force after graduating from high school. After basic training, he was posted to Nellis Air Force Base just north of Las Vegas, an appointment that would change the trajectory of Eshenbaugh’s life.

As a combat engineer at Nellis, he did carpentry work, which sparked an immediate interest in design, construction, problem solving, and ultimately architecture. “At that time, I never strayed from my objective: I had become an architect,” says Eshenbaugh. “So after my honorable discharge from the Air Force in early 1990, I enrolled in the UNLV School of Architecture.”

How determined was Eshenbaugh to achieve this dream? Before entering his first class as a UNLV freshman, he already had a job as a runner at Lucchesi Galati Architects. Not only did he remain employed by the Las Vegas-based company throughout his time as an UNLV student, but by his freshman year, Eshenbaugh had been elevated to a design position.

That year, Eshenbaugh also served as president of the UNLV chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS). Then, as a senior, he took second place in a national student design competition.

In the nearly three decades since leaving UNLV, Eshenbaugh has left a huge imprint on both his alma mater and his adopted hometown. For example, he designed the Desert Living Center at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve (Nevada’s first LEED-certified building) and the Clark County Wetlands Nature Center; devoted more than 800 hours of pro bono service to the design of a Shade Tree Shelter renovation for victims of domestic violence; and was the first Rebel to chair the American Institute of Architects chapters in Las Vegas (2019) and Nevada (2020).

Among his many contributions to UNLV, Eshenbaugh has taught at the School of Architecture on and off since 1997; served for one year as Director of the Alumni Council of the College of Fine Arts; and worked with the School of Architecture on their most recent strategic planning efforts. In addition, he has supervised many architecture students and he employs 10 UNLV alumni in his company, NOVUS-Architecture.

Most recently, Eshenbaugh created an endowment in his name for a UNLV minority graduate student with financial need and established the annual AIA Nevada Diversity Scholarship for BIOPIC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) high school students who aspire to become architects. . And in 2020, it launched a year-long program that targeted socio-economic concerns related to affordable housing and homelessness.

For all of these reasons (and more), Eshenbaugh has received dozens of architectural and community awards — none greater than the 2021 AIA Nevada Silver Medal, the state chapter’s highest honor bestowed. to an architect.

Since graduating, you’ve made it a point to give back to your alma mater in so many ways. How do you explain this enthusiasm for the UNLV?

I enjoyed every moment of my four years at UNLV, especially since I was the first in my family to attend university. UNLV gave me the confidence and connections I needed to find my way to who I am today.

Since graduating, I have enjoyed staying connected to the university, a place of knowledge, innovation and passion. In the end, I have received so much from UNLV that it is almost impossible for me to say no.

For example, when my company was asked to do pro bono work on the Jerry Tarkanian Legacy Project – the statue of Coach Tarkanian that stands in front of the Thomas and Mack Center – I didn’t hesitate. In fact, it was an honor, especially considering the joy I felt watching his teams play when I was a student. I often tell people that between 1990 and 1994, I never missed a Runnin’ Rebels home game, even though I missed several classes.

You have dedicated a lot of time to pro bono projects that have a positive impact on the wider community. What is your message to today’s rebellious students about the role they can play in helping to build a better community?

I believe architects can have a huge impact in our communities and help solve social problems if we have a seat at the table. So my message to students is to know what you are doing, find your voice and use it in everything you do, including helping those in need.

UNLV gave me a platform to find my voice, and that platform exists for current students. Once you find your voice, use it to lead others.

One of UNLV’s main missions is to help students cultivate a sense of self-determination. Describe a time when you had to rely on self-determination to achieve a goal.

With over 15 years of practice under my belt, I found myself in uncharted waters when the Great Recession dissolved the 35-person company I worked for in 2009. In that incredibly scary moment, I was determined to carry on to success. So I started on my own and launched NOVUS Architecture. In December, we will celebrate our 13th year of success.

Some days are easy and some are not. But I firmly believe that if you are determined, you will succeed.

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