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 scholars to learn on an ongoing basis about thoughts and ideas relevant to the architectural profession today.


Special thanks to the 2021 Benefactor Sponsors who make this program possible:

Background & Program

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 2022 Class will open the Summer of 2021.

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 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.


SP2021 Session #4:

Date: May 7, 2021Location: ZoomLeaders: Eric Burnside, Mahe Hameed, Joanne MaDocumentation:  Ami Patel, Sarah Rolfvondenbaumen Expanding the Definition of Practice + Trending Now The final session of Houston’s 2021 Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program was divided into five distinct parts about the impact architects can have on sustainability efforts and social justice. The sponsor presentation by Lisa Conway and …

SP2021 Session #3:

Date: April 9, 2021Location: ZoomLeaders: Ami Patel, Sarah RolfvondenbaumenDocumentation:  Alex Morales,  Megan Irvin Working Together & Future of Our Culture OVERVIEW Speaker #1 Neurodiversity in the workplace  Amy Sickeler – Perkins & Will Amy has researched Neurodiversity for many years and described to the scholars how we could become more aware of neurodiversity among our clients. She also explained …

SP2021 Session #2:

Date: March 5, 2021Location: ZoomLeaders: Alex Morales, Megan IrvinDocumentation: Jean Daly, Rick De La Cruz. Community Engagement + DEI Summary Part I: Introduction & Opening The session opened with a short presentation by session sponsor Cast Connex, covering their capabilities in creating unique and aesthetically pleasing structural connections. Then session leaders Megan Irving, AIA and Alex Morales talked about …


2021-2022 Schedule

Session 0 (September 3, 2021) 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 the year ahead
  • Sponsorship now and in your future
  • Review of program templates

Session 1 (October 8, 2021)
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 5, 2021)
Entrepreneurship and Business Management

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

Session 3 (December 3, 2022)
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 7, 2022)
Community Engagement + Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

  • Community involvement the role of crowdsourced solutions in a market-based society
  • The 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 4, 2022)
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 4, 2022)
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, etc.)
  • Learning by doing through the use of fabrication

Session 7 (April 1, 2022)
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 6, 2022) 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