The Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program (CKLDP) was founded in 2013 by the Emerging Architects Committee as part of the AIA|DC Chapter. The program is in memory of Christopher Kelley, an employee of Gensler and an active member of the DC architectural community. Christopher was a recipient of the AIA Young Architects Award in 2010 and an exemplary, emerging young leader. Since its founding, the CKLDP has been established in Washington DC, Denver, Detroit, Miami, Georgia and Houston, and strives to carry forward Christopher’s legacy by actively training and nurturing the next generation of leaders within the architectural profession.

The year-long program consists of nine individual half-day sessions attended by a competitively selected group of 16 emerging professionals from Houston.  The curriculum focuses on core skills such as entrepreneurship and firm management, the art of negotiation, bringing in new clients, community leadership, industry culture, and developing one’s future within the practice.

The leadership program participants are responsible for planning and participating in each of the individual sessions. Each year, scholars from the previous year are selected to help guide the next year’s class. In this way, the program is continually evolving, allowing the scholars to learn on an ongoing basis about thoughts and ideas relevant to the architectural profession today.


Allied Programs

CKLDP – AIA DCVisit Site

CKLDP – AIA Denver – Visit Site

CKLDP – AIA Detroit – Visit Site

CKLDP – AIA Miami – Visit Site

CKLDP – AIA Georgia – Visit Site

CKLDP – AIA Indiana – Visit Site

CKLDP – New Mexico / Albuquerque – Visit Site


The curriculum focuses on core professional skills such as entrepreneurship and firm management, working together and collaboration, the art of negotiation, client development, community leadership, industry trends, and developing your future within the practice. The selected scholars to the leadership program are responsible for planning and participating in each of the individual sessions. The program will be kicked off by a “Boot Camp” session to introduce the participants and to develop the curriculum for the year.

Sessions are typically held on the first Friday of every month, from 12:00pm – 5:00pm, September through May. Year-specific schedules are published under the “Schedule” tab. Applications for the 2020 Class will open Spring of 2019.

Application Materials

Refer to the AIA Houston website for the latest application materials. You may preview the materials here.

Commitment to the Program

The program’s success is directly related to the attendance by the participants and therefore attendance is mandatory. Each participant of the program will be required to sign an Agreement Form that will require a signature from one of the participant’s principals of their firm. Provided due notice to the Executive Committee, with extenuating circumstances, each scholar will be allowed one excused absence. If two sessions are missed, a fine of $50 will be sent to the participants firm. A further absence will result in an additional $50 fine and expulsion from the program.

Attendance is mandatory for all scholars at the first meeting of the group “Bootcamp” as well as the final session and closing reception.

AIA Continuing Education

It is intended that this program will have AIA CE credit made available for its participants.

Honoring Christopher Kelley


Christopher Kelley, AIA was an active member of the DC architectural community and suddenly passed away in May of 2012. He was a respected leader within the Institute as well as within Gensler’s Washington office. Through his volunteer efforts, he participated and contributed to initiatives and programs that have had a positive impact on emerging professionals at different stages of their careers.  In 2010 Christopher was honored with the AIA Young Architects Award for which the jury stated, “Christopher has proven himself a young leader within and around the AIA, a real example for other young professionals.” This program is intended to continue his legacy of leadership and activism.


For more information, please contact the committee.


2019-2020 Session #4: Community Engagement

Date: January 10, 2020 Location: Big Brothers Big Sisters, 1003 Washington Ave Houston, TX 77002 Title: Community Engagement Session Sponsors: Inkind Sponsor: Dewberry Venue Sponsor: Big Brothers Big Sisters Leaders: Scott Dailey & Lara Richard Documentation: Shelby Fisher & Qeturah Williams Overview Scott Dailey and Lara Richard led the fourth Session of the 2019-2020 Christopher Kelly …

2019-2020 Session #3: The Art Of Negotiating

Date: December 6, 2019 Location: 800 Capitol St. Title: The Art Of Negotiating Session Sponsors: DLR Group, Skanska Leaders: Shelby Fischer, Qeturah Williams Documentation: Kevin Perks, Barak Yaryan Speakers: Laura Dempsey, David Combs, Tammy Canon Introduction Session 3 focused on the world of contracts and negotiations with an emphasis how to build relationships throughout the process to …

2019-2020 Session #2: Entrepreneurship and Business Management

Date: November 1, 2019 Location: Metalab Title: Entrepreneurship and Business Management Session Sponsors: Prism Renderings Leaders: Barak Yaryan & Kevin Parks Documentation: Sofia Dusek & Kiza Forgie Prior to CKLDP Session 2 on entrepreneurship and business management the below preparatory reading and informational podcast set the stage for what was to come. Friction Podcast: ‘The …


2019-2020 Schedule


Session 0 (September 6, 2019) attendance required


  • Introduction to the course and participants
  • Importance of leadership within the profession
  • “How To” set – up future courses in the coming months
  • Breakouts with scholars to develop session content for year ahead
  • Sponsorship now and in your future
  • Review of program templates


Session 1 (October 4, 2019)

Working Together

  • Understanding your own leadership skills and how they relate to the rest of your team
  • Teams, groups, and organizational problem solving
  • The role of architects relative to other project stakeholders, including public and private owners, developers, contractors, consultants, financial institutions, and other allied professionals


Session 2 (November 1, 2019)

Entrepreneurship and Business Management

  • Office and Firm management
  • Leadership, ownership, and transition
  • Financial and succession planning
  • Business and project management standards


Session 3 (December 6, 2018)

The Art of Negotiation

  • Ethics and law, from contracts and codes to professional ethics and standards of behavior as it pertains to the profession
  • Negotiating a contract
  • Contractual pitfalls
  • Stakeholder relationships


Session 4 (January 10, 2020)

Community Engagement

  • Community involvement the role of crowd sourced solutions in a market-based society
  • Business practice of public interest design
  • Social responsibility of architects as community leaders – (ie. becoming more involved through philanthropic work and board involvement)
  • Understanding how politics and advocacy affect the profession (ie. civic leadership)


Session 5 (February 7, 2020)

Closing the Deal

  • Business and professional communications including public relations, presentations, writing and professional speaking skills
  • Appropriate use of social media
  • Networking, business development, and pursuing work


Session 6 (March 6, 2020)

Trending Now

  • Sustainability efforts as they relate to the environment, economy, social ethics, and resiliency
  • The use of technology within the practice (BIM, VR, data gathering, ect.)
  • Learning by doing through the use of fabrication


Session 7 (April 3, 2020)

Expanding the Definition of Practice

  • Research and standard of care in the profession
  • Education within the University and the role of mentorship
  • Keeping abreast with new ideas through the academic setting
  • Alternative business models to a traditional firm
  • Providing a diverse, inclusive, and innovative practice


Session 8 (May 1, 2020) attendance required

Future of Our Culture

  • Leader effectiveness and career and personal development (ie. work – life balance; self – assessment)
  • The role of mentorship with recent graduates and recently licensed architects
  • Developing your own career path through reflection on the CKLDP
  • Major disruptors in tech / construction