The stunning foothills overlooking California's Coachella Valley have
served as Kristi Hanson's canvas for nearly 30 years.
Hanson, a 1987 graduate of North Dakota State University's Department of
Architecture, has built a national reputation and business creating
one-of-a-kind residential designs that capture jaw-dropping views and
include every luxury.
In California's desert community of La Quinta, a playground for Hollywood
stars and entrepreneurs, Hanson designed a 17,500-square-foot contemporary
estate featuring a 3,000-gallon saltwater aquarium and floor-to-ceiling
glass walls that open to the nearby mountain ranges.
Today, the architect's high-end custom homes and unique commercial projects
can be found throughout southern California, Hawaii, Washington and other
areas of the country.
Her Palm Desert-based firm, KHA Architects, and her innovative designs have
been featured in leading architecture publications and some of the nation's
largest newspapers. But when asked what work she's most proud of, Hanson's
answer has nothing to do with her career and everything to do with her alma
mater: North Dakota State University.
"I'm more proud of the work I do at NDSU, and giving back, than I am of my
work as an architect," she said.
Hanson remains active at NDSU and supports the university in many ways.
Hanson has funded scholarships for student athletes and for architecture
students. She is a regular contributor to the university's Impact Fund, the
Department of Architecture's Green Jacket Program and has established an
endowed scholarship within the Department of Architecture.
Hanson created the endowment fund as part of her estate plan, but has
already begun contributing to the fund so that she can see the impact of
her philanthropy. Once fully funded, Hanson's blended gift will be a
permanent source for student scholarships at NDSU.
"When you support students, you're helping make the world a better place,"
she said. "If you can give students an opportunity to go to school and not
worry about how they are going to make it work financially, it makes their
education all that much more valuable."
KHA Architects currently employs four NDSU graduates and
has hired many others over the years. The firm also has sponsored
opportunities for NDSU architecture students to learn about their
profession in the field.
Hanson also gives her time to the university, serving as an NDSU Foundation
trustee and on several advisory committees.
"There is so much energy and passion at NDSU," Hanson said. "It's rewarding
to be part of that and it makes you want to give back."
Hanson said buildings have fascinated her for as long as she can remember.
While growing up in western North Dakota, it was nearly impossible for her
to come across an interesting building without ducking inside for a closer
By the time she reached seventh grade, Hanson said her career path was
"I knew I wanted to be an architect," she said. "I'm not sure why, but
buildings have always intrigued me."
Her calling didn't come without reservations from well-meaning family
members who were concerned that the male-dominated profession might yield
Undeterred, the Williston High School graduate left for North Dakota State
to pursue a degree in architecture.
Hanson said NDSU prepared her well for the highly competitive business of
"There were great mentors who inspired you and instilled in you the belief
that you can accomplish anything," she said. "But most importantly, NDSU
teaches you how to think and solve problems."