My Name Is... Carmen Kwolkoski

From youthful days in 4-H to acoustical engineering

David Gilbert
dgilbert@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 10/26/20

Farmer's daughter I grew up in Montana. My father was a wheat farmer and a schoolteacher in a one-room schoolhouse. He passed away when I was pretty young, and we moved into a house my grandparents …

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My Name Is... Carmen Kwolkoski

From youthful days in 4-H to acoustical engineering

Posted

Farmer's daughter

I grew up in Montana. My father was a wheat farmer and a schoolteacher in a one-room schoolhouse. He passed away when I was pretty young, and we moved into a house my grandparents owned in Missoula.

I was pretty active in 4-H. I had showed cattle and baked a lot. My graduating class was about 150 people, so I got to do a lot of things. I was student body president and junior class president.

Champion meat judger

Of all things, I was a state champion meat judger. The contest was to identify cuts of meat. There was this room full of little cuts of meat on plates, and you had a few seconds to identify what type of meat it was, what part of the animal it came from, and how you cook it.

It sounds hilarious, but it was very Montana. If you are in the business of raising beef, you need to know what makes good beef. Turns out I was pretty good at it. I won the state championship, but I was only 12, and they said I was too young to go to nationals.

What it takes

I thought I wanted to be a large animal veterinarian. But I assisted on a couple surgeries, and I discovered large animals were pretty difficult. Vets around here have special tables for that sort of thing, but back then in Montana you just had a rope to hold horses down. You'd do surgeries in the field.

I was assisting with a surgery on my mom's horse, and the horse just popped up out of the anesthesia. It was so hard to get her back down. I realized I didn't have what it takes.

'Not hiring secretaries'

I ended up going to college for architecture. I could do the math. I could do everything. But when I graduated and started going to interviews, my eyes were opened. Employers thought Carmen was a man's name. I would get an interview, but when I showed up they would say “Sorry, we're not hiring secretaries.”

Finally I got a job as a drafter with Texas Instruments, which set me on my career path. I quit to have my kids, but now my husband and I run an acoustical engineering firm.

I handle room acoustics. You predict how sound will act in a room. Will a classroom be too loud? Will the teacher be able to hear the students? We control sound environments within a space.

I like to see how different architects work, and how buildings have evolved. It's an innovative field.

If you have suggestions for My Name Is, please contact David Gilbert at dgilbert@coloradocommunitymedia.com.

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