Director of planning and
Since launching the Planning and Urban Design Group at RW Armstrong in 2007, Cynthia Bowen and her team have gone from projects designing local subdivisions to planning an entire city in Libya. Bowen estimates she spends 65 percent to 70 percent of her time traveling the globe to meet with clients.
Projects like the $2 billion Libyan deal generate multimillion-dollar revenue and six-figure profits for RW Armstrong, a 50-year-old engineering consulting firm based in Indianapolis.
“I like the culture within our company. It’s very collaborative,” Bowen said. “It’s challenging every day.”
Now 38, the Plainfield native and Ball State University graduate built her reputation locally, working with the Lafayette Square Area Coalition, the Pike Township Advisory Board and Coxall Gardens in Carmel.
These days, much of her work revolves around designing cities or reviewing plans for governments. The challenge, she said, is applying planning principals to create an environment that is socially and culturally acceptable.
On her first visit to Saudi Arabia, she wore an abaya (long dress) and head scarf the entire time, to show respect for the culture. Consequently, the Saudi men she met with to review plans for a new city spoke directly to her and shook her hand.
“There is an advantage to being a Western woman that affords you different liberties than women in that culture have,” she said.
Still, extended travel to faraway lands has its price.
“It makes it hard on relationships,” said Bowen, who is single. “Sometimes it’s frustrating, because it feels like you’re putting your personal life second, and I struggle with that.”
Bowen is an influential voice for her profession as a member of the national board of directors of the American Planning Association.
To unwind, she runs and does yoga, activities she can manage wherever she goes. “As long as I can get in my workout,” she says, she will be able to handle the rest.•