Tanya Bratslavsky Left Her Mark on Engineering in Alaska

By Jane Kagan, Tanya’s daughter

Profile photo of Tanya Bratslavsky
Photo of Tanya Bratslavsky

Engineering was not the easy career choice for a woman in the 1970’s. When my mom, Tanya Bratslavsky, graduated with a double degree in civil and structural engineering, women made up only 3% of the U.S. engineering workforce.

She was born in Kiev, Ukraine, where she completed her master’s in civil and structural engineering. At the age of 24, she immigrated with her parents and brother to the United States, where she earned her U.S. degrees. I remember her telling me that she was one of only two women in the school of engineering at that time, and that all the guys wanted to copy her coursework.

Her successes soon resulted in a reputation as a highly competent Professional Engineer. When she moved to Alaska in 1982, she took an active role building out the state’s infrastructure. She designed bridges, roads, schools, fire stations, truly leaving her mark in communities throughout the state. In 1985, she opened the first woman-owned and run engineering firm in Alaska. This was the same year she had her second child — me.

In 2016, Harvard Business review called engineering “the most male-dominated profession in the US.” This was almost 30 years after Tanya started a successful engineering company, as a woman, in Alaska, in the 80’s, with two small children under five. She actively ran Bratslavsky Consulting Engineers for over 34 years, expanding to offices in Oregon, Florida and Washington. In 1996, she became one of the few women awarded the ASCE Engineer of the Year. My mother achieved and overcame anything she set her mind to.

Tanya built a business, she was an active parent, she maintained deep friendships, and she had a never-ending thirst for knowledge and experiences. She had so much energy, and she used that energy to give back, never hesitating to “lend a helping hand” to anyone who asked. She spent countless hours volunteering, donating and fundraising, mentoring or just offering advice. She volunteered with Rotary, the University of Alaska Anchorage, and Society of Women Engineers, trying to make it a smoother road for the next generation of women.

We lost my mom in November of 2019. It became overwhelmingly clear what a driving force she was in all our lives. We miss her constantly, but her memory continues; Bratslavsky Consulting Engineers is still a family run business, operating throughout the country. I proudly took my kids on a tour of Anchorage last summer, pointing out all the things their grandmother helped build — including schools, restaurants, hotels, and even fish passages, which help restore healthy fish populations. Her stamp is everywhere.

In honor of what would have been her 70th birthday this September, we are so proud to continue her legacy by establishing The Tanya Bratslavsky Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship benefits students majoring in Engineering at UAA, with preference given to students who are members of the Society of Women Engineers. It is our hope that the recipients of this scholarship will continue her legacy, not only with their own careers, but also by helping the next generations of engineers, especially women engineers. The College of Engineering awarded the first scholarship this fall.