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Wounded Army vet finds passion for architecture

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Wounded Army vet finds passion for architecture

Image: Wounded Army vet finds passion for architecture

After years of searching for a career that feels right, Phill Schladweiler, 41, of Eau Claire, is studying architecture and working as an intern for a local firm.

Phill Schladweiler’s perspective on life changed after being wounded in the line of duty.

The 41-year-old veteran was a forward observer calling in air support in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2006. He was struck by rocket-propelled artillery shells while in a sandbag bunker.

No one died – Schladweiler credits the engineers who built the bunker. But he and a fellow soldier were wounded. Schladweiler is blind in his right eye and keeps his mental health in check.

But his takeaway from serving eight years in the military is to take every opportunity to live life.

“A lot of people take things for granted,” he said. “Just the opportunities that they don’t see that are right in front of them. I got to the point in my life that if I’m not happy with what I’m doing and in a miserable state, why am I not changing it? I’m going to find the right path for me.”

Schladweiler, of Eau Claire, has taken his change in perspective to heart. After leaving the military, he went to college near Beloit, then transitioned to UW-Eau Claire for bachelor’s degrees in photography and psychology. He went to UW-Stout for a master’s degree in industrial organization to help businesses and their employees improve processes and performance in the workplace.

But his heart wasn’t in it.

He had been working on remodeling portions of his home, which he enjoyed. It led him to walk away from his master’s program, and to inquire about the Residential Construction program at Chippewa Valley Technical College. He entered and finished the one-year program and applied for the Master of Architecture program at Arizona State University online.

He appreciated the content, but the online nature didn’t give him the camaraderie he wanted.
Schladweiler sought out CVTC again and entered the Architectural Structural Design program. He’s in his second semester of the two-year program.

Once he entered the program, he began contacting River Valley Architects – a design firm in the Chippewa Valley. He wanted an internship, and he wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

“I just kept on bugging them,” Schladweiler laughed. “I’d email them and say, ‘Hey, how does my resume look?’ or ‘I have this website. What do you think?’ And they offered me the intern technician position.”

Keith Vesperman, CVTC architectural structural design instructor, said Schladweiler is an excellent student.

“He knew exactly what he wanted to do for work, and that’s why he came to us after being enrolled in a four-year program that he felt might not lead to employment,” Vesperman said. “He reads and researches and is a self-directed learner when needed. He’s a hard worker.

“I do believe architecture is a natural fit for Phill and that he’s going to have a great career doing this type of work.”

Today, Schladweiler is enjoying how his internship and architecture classes play off of each other.

“There might be certain things that I don’t quite understand in the program that my internship actually helps explain or vice versa,” Schladweiler said. “I’m utilizing them both to gain as much knowledge as I can.”

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