2018-2019 Session 9: End of Year Celebration

The AIA Houston Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program hosted it’s End of Year Celebration at CASA Houston.


2018-2019 Session 8: Future of the Practice

Date: May 3, 2019

Location: Workplace Solutions

2800 Kirby Drive, Suite B200

Houston, Texas 77098

Led by: Krystyn Haecker, Mark Willingham

Session In-Kind Sponsors:  None

Session Sponsor: DLR Group

Venue Sponsor: Workplace Solutions


Krystyn Haecker and Mark Willingham led the eighth session of the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program titled “Future of Practice”. The scholars met at a familiar location, Workplace Solutions, which previously held the fifth session titled “Closing the Deal”.

A series of keynote speakers were scheduled for the afternoon to discuss topics on leadership effectiveness, career and personal development and the role of mentorship.

In preparation for the session, the scholars were asked to reflect on mentorship and diversity. Krystyn Haecker and Mark Willingham kicked off the session by explaining the intent of the personal reflection as it related to the session content. Catherine Callaway, a Senior Associate at Kirksey Architecture, presented to the scholars on why and how to be a leader by telling anecdotes about her career path. Darren C. Heine, President at BBA Architects, then went on to highlight innovative practice models in architecture and what creates innovative projects. Donna Kacmar, Interim Associate Dean and Professor at University of Houston College of Architecture & Design, helped the scholars identify strategies to adjust tendencies towards biases in the workpalce by talking about her work in the AIA EQFA Committee and the AIA Equitable Practice Guides. Her along with Catherin Callaway, also explained the importance of mentorship. The last keynote was a presentation and discussion with Mia Scharphie, Founder of Build Yourself. Mia answered questions the scholars had about their own career and personal development and then went on to present how one can be a creative agent for change.

The Closing Reception concluded the Program at CASA Houston where the scholars, committee, sponsors, mentees, and mentors continued conversations about the program during happy hour.

Session Overview

Session 8 - 3Krystyn Haecker, Mark Willingham

Krystyn Haecker and Mark Willingham began the session by explaining the intent of the personal reflection as it related to the session content. They then went on to introduce the scholars to the four speakers curated for the eighth session and emphasized the ability the group of scholars has to improve and change the future of architecture.


Keynote 01: Be a Leader

Catherine Callaway, AIA, LEED AP | Senior Associate, Kirksey | Architecture

Catherine Callaway, Senior Associate at Kirksey Architecture, presented to the scholars on why and how to be a leader utilizing anecdotes to describe four key points for each.

“You live here, we live here,” she said and then began to tell us about her experience leading AIA’s Walking Tours and how she was able to give back to the city and have a positive impact on the community. She urged the scholars to think about why they are in Houston, why they are in their profession and why they are in the program. Catherine then explained how through volunteering and leadership outside of the office she has grown her career and expanded her perspective. Being a leader means learning new skills and learning from mistakes; she reflected on her time as President of the AIA Houston Chapter when Hurricane Harvey came through. Lastly, she urged the scholars to assess together, where is CKLDP taking the group. The key point she was getting across was growing your network and how making these connections makes the community stronger.

Catherine highlighted on people in her life (Kirksey colleagues, WIA committee, family, AIA board and staff) who are very important to her because they allow her and help her be where she is today. She advised the scholars about the importance of saying no through her own words and quotes of others. Continuing on her time as the President, she noted that you need to be prepared to show up – fake it ‘til you make it. To conclude her presentation, she expressed the importance of staying true to yourself. She observed other leaders and identified what made them successful leaders but ultimately, she knew she would only succeed if she was authentically true to herself. She acknowledged that since it is hard to identify your own qualities, it is best to ask for feedback from people who know you best, asses who you are, where you are going and look at things that are important to you. Most importantly, hold each other accountable.

Keynote 02: Innovative Practice Models in Architecture

Darren C. Heine, AIA | President, BBA Architects, LP

The next keynote speaker was Darren C. Heine, President at BBA Architects. Darren currently serves as one of three Texas regional representatives to the AIA National Strategic Council, the “think tank” of the Institute and member of the Public Outreach, Innovative Business Models, and Transforming Architectural Education working groups. He began describing the makeup of the AIA National Strategic Council which has 18 regions plus international and how each region has multiple representatives. The purpose is to act as a think tank and bring things to the board that is of high priority. Through generative thinking, representatives create organic engagement with members of the AIA, forecast knowledge and the next big thing and bring public awareness of the AIA, Architects, and Architecture.

Darren then went on to highlight innovative practice models in architecture and what creates innovative projects. He started with the importance of knowing your client types and getting them involved as soon as possible. A client whose first time to work with an Architect is considered a Level 1 client versus a Level 3 client who is experienced and more included to use traditional processes and more interactive in all aspects. Daren identified the Business Traditional Model and pointed out disrupting forces which have morphed the business model. Some of which his firm implements such as working remotely and technological advances (BIM technology, Research, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality). Lastly, Daren identified key resources to help guide innovative practice – The Architect’s Voice: Advocating for Our Profession, The AIA Trust, Architect Innovation Lab and Center for Practice.

Keynote 03: The Work of the AIA EQFA Committee and the AIA Equitable Practice Guides

Donna Kacmar, FIAI | Interim Associate Dean and Professor, University of Houston College of Architecture & Design

Donna Kacmar, Interim Associate Dean and Professor at University of Houston College of Architecture & Design, helped the scholars identify strategies to adjust tendencies towards biases in the workplace by talking about her work in the AIA EQFA Committee and the AIA Equitable Practice Guides. Her along with Catherin Callaway also explained the importance of mentorship.

Donna began telling the scholars that someone reached out to Natalye Appel to be featured in a book titled A House for My Mother and Natalye referred her to the author because she too had designed a home for her mother. Donna took the scholars through her time at Texas A&M to starting her firm. She showed how her career was not planned but rather guided by people, like Natalye, who helped her; she was at the right place at the right time. Natalye was Donna’s mentor and helped her get on the AIA Houston board; she put her places and gave her opportunity. Donna shared how she followed in Natalye’s footsteps and did the same for Catherine Callaway. Donna explained how she did not have a 5-year plan or 10-year plan but how her volunteer efforts, through WIA, led her to her leadership in equity. She read articles, current reports, the law and learned from people who were talking about equity (not only in our profession) which helped her develop the equity guide with the University of Minnesota. She walked the scholars through the equity guide, describing its’ importance and showed examples of how different entities are leading the way. The first thing is transparency, one must understand the bands of compensation to be able to access opportunity. She encouraged the scholars to understand and know their worth by keeping track of their performance, keep an updated resume and take negotiation training. Donna also strongly encouraged mentorship and how it is important to not over mentor and explained the difference between giving advice and advocating. She ended her discussion by pointing out how diverse Houston is and how the scholars should take advantage of it and share our knowledge.

Keynote 04: How to Be a Creative Agent for Change

Mia Scharphie | Founder, Build Yourself

IMG_9682 (1)

The last keynote was a presentation and discussion with Mia Scharphie, Founder of Build Yourself. Mia started the discussion by asking and answering questions the scholars had about their career and personal development and then went on to present how one can be a creative agent for change.

The real question, she stated, is not can you change the world through design but HOW can you change the world through design. Mia used herself as an example and described how she sees herself as a social worker in designer’s clothing. She grew up with the value set of doing social work and now works full time for herself as a design consultant.

Session 8 - 9

Mia’s advise on “how to be a creative agent of change” was to be systems-curious. She explained how the profession tends to focus too much on physical systems. She urged the scholars to find gaps in the market, get creative about revenue, understand where bias might be showing up in your organization and recognize tradeoffs. She also asked scholars to be obsessively human and organize a Design for Equity event. This event is one that uses a cookbook and three-course meal as training and conversation surrounding equity. Lastly, she described the importance of claiming your agency; propose ideas and don’t wait for permission; let your creativity go big. Overall, the idea behind being a creative agent of change is making small commitments, putting stakes in the ground, building upon personal capacity and taking risks because each risk builds to the next risk.


The eighth session of the 2018-2019 Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program allowed the scholars to reflect on their career path and learn how to be an effective leader. The keynote speakers were excellently chosen to reflect the “Future of Practice” and was a perfect means to end the program. It left the scholars with a true sense of the past and the future and with the tools they need to make the next steps in not only their careers but the careers of others. It also provided them with the knowledge to improve and change the architectural profession.

2018-2019 Session 7: Research, Education, and Practice

Date: April 5, 2019

Location: Glassell School of Art; 5101 Montrose Blvd, Studio 10  Houston, Texas 77006

Led by: Brian Burnett, Matthew Duggan

Session In-Kind Sponsors:  Huckabee

Venue Sponsor: Glassell School of Art
0a Bldg Exterior


Brian Burnett and Matthew Duggan led the seventh session of the 2018-2019 Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program titled “Research, Education, and Practice.” The scholars met in one of the second-floor studios at the new Glassell School of Art for a series of interactive presentations focused on research in architectural practice. Kerri Ranney showed the scholars how Huckabee Architects uses LEx Labs as an active tool for collaboration and research in the design of classrooms and learning environments. Peter Boudreaux shared how his firm, Curry Boudreaux Architects, used research methods to design and create an accessible “camp for all” that continues to inform the firm’s other projects. The scholars were also led on a tour of the new Glassell School of Art by Brian Burnett, after which Brian and co-presenter Matthew Duggan led an interactive presentation on various research initiatives across the profession. Angela Wrigglesworth, a 3rd-grade teacher with HISD, concluded the session with powerful stories about teaching, motivating, and empowering people through access and inclusion.  The scholars continued the conversation during happy hour at Under the Volcano.

Keynote 1: Research in Practice: Interior Environments Maximized for Learning

Kerri Ranney, LEx Labs – Huckabee

1b Kerri

Kerri Ranney introduced the scholars to the research initiatives of Huckabee Architects through  LEx – Learning Experience Laboratories – which collaborates with other research entities at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Their efforts focus on education, professional development for designers and educators, and facility design. Research at LEx is geared towards the elementary school level, and they measure student engagement (which is considered authentic learning) rather than test scores or grades. They want to move away from standardized testing and towards alternate paths of success since not all successful people need higher education or a college degree. Kerri explained what is involved in “real” research – not just a buzzword used by many firms. R1 is a research category that is publishable, verifiable, based on statistics, and eligible for federal funds. Huckabee’s research evolved through three rounds of development, including an experimental spatial lab, setting up labs at schools, and pilot programs with controlled vs. intervention rooms at schools. They also utilize online collaboration tools and virtual tours of their research spaces for those unable to visit Waco in person. Their research center is used to educate clients about the built environment and impact it can have on teaching and learning. Exploring outside references such as nursing stations and museums has influenced their school and classroom design, and each design solution is hyper-local for each community – there is no prototype ideal learning environment to be used in multiple locations. Kerri concluded her presentation by sharing that Huckabee plans to publish the first draft of their research in May 2019.

Keynote 2: Research focused Practices: Refining the Built Environment

Brian Burnett, Kendall/Heaton & Matthew Duggan, BRW Architects

4a Brian Matt

Brian and Matthew began their keynote with an overview of the article “3 Myths and 1 Model” by Jeremy Till, which is an overview of architectural research in today’s practice.  Scholars shared their thoughts and lamented how few people outside the profession of architecture understand how architects work and what they do. Research in practice seeks to establish a feedback loop with post-occupancy evaluations to measure the built environment and determine areas for improvement. The scholars discussed how many firms are leading the charge with various research initiatives – KieranTimberlake, Sasaki Foundation, Payette, Perkins + Will, Texas A&M, among many others. However, much of the leading research in design and technology is kept within the individual architectural practices and rarely shared with the design community. Architects are recognizing that building code represents the bare minimum and they are taking a more aggressive approach to meet energy targets through efforts like the AIA 2030 DDx (Design Data exchange).

Keynote 3: Research through Practice: Optimizing Accessibility – Universal Design

Peter Boudreaux, Curry Boudreaux Architects

2b Peter

To further accentuate the topic of architectural research in today’s practice, Peter Boudreaux of Curry Boudreaux Architects shared his career-long experience of researching, practicing, and optimizing universal-design in the built environment.  He began his presentation with the story of how his firm started as a 600sf office space with no projects but a bunch of contacts. Peter and his partner began reaching out to all their contacts to see who would be open to an initial conversation.  One of those contacts happened to be Dr. Paul Gerson with a dream to create a “camp for all” that accommodated children with disabilities who could enjoy a fun place that was also a healing environment. Over the course of two decades, Curry Boudreaux Architects designed several facilities for Camp For All that initially accommodated 16 different disabilities but now serves 60+ disabilities.  The successful range of accommodations originated from the design team’s intention to design to principles instead of minimum code requirements (ADA/TAS), initiating direct conversations with future user groups in the programming stage, studying comparable projects and visiting them in person, and following up after construction with a post-occupancy study by a third party.

Break / Glassell School of Art Tour

3a Tour

Brian Burnett guided the scholars on an active tour through the Glassell School of Art spaces including the lobby, rooftop, and auditorium while sharing his experience of the project as part of the Kendall Heaton team working with Steven Holl Architects. Brian made sure to note that each window and precast concrete panel is unique, which required much coordination. The scholars noted that the rooftop event space and roof garden could benefit from some shaded areas. The corner door system in the auditorium was one of the tour highlights.

Keynote 4: Education in Practice: Teaching and Motivating – Empowering People

Angela Wrigglesworth, 3rd-grade teacher with HISD

5a Angela

The final speaker of the day was Angela Wrigglesworth who provided personal stories involving unexpected accessibility/mobility encounters while utilizing a motorized wheelchair.  Angela began her segment with a positive objective of “always be willing to offer help… you never know when you could accomplish something you didn’t expect.” She told the ironic, heroic tale of being able to help a stranded motorist by using her powered wheelchair to push a non-mobile vehicle to a gas station.  Angela also gave an account of being physically blocked out of a restaurant she highly anticipated visiting while traveling abroad… all because of one step at the building’s entrance instead of a ramp. Luckily the owners of the restaurant made an extra effort to accommodate her situation. In this scenario, people were able to step in to make up for a building’s inaccessibility but on a more routine basis, encountering an inaccessible building can tamper the freedom and confidence of someone with mobility issues and it communicates a subliminal message of exclusion… something for architects to consider especially if they’re passionate about the social impact on the community.   


The seventh session of the 2018-2019 Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program excellently captured “Research, Education, and Practice” in the architecture profession with insights from experts that extensively researched their material, implemented and experimented with it in built environments, and worked to improve their practice based upon the results they received.  The middle of the session was broken up with a walking tour of the newly constructed Glassell School of Art and a broad-reaching presentation of “what’s out there” from Brian and Matt who paired it with a prior reading assignment given to the scholars. The energetic and emotional storytelling from Angela created a notable appeal to remember the importance of inclusion for all in society.


2018-2019 Session 6: Trending Now

Date: March 1, 2019

Location: Houston Permitting Center – 1002 Washington Ave, Houston, TX 77002

Led by: Courtney Brinegar, Danny Rigg

Session In-Kind Sponsors: Corgan and Green Building Resource Center

Session Sponsor: Prism

Venue Sponsor: Houston Permit Center




Courtney Brinegar and Danny Rigg led the sixth session of the Christopher Kelley program, “Trending Now”. During the program session at the Houston Permit Center, the session leaders kicked things off by presenting the trends on food consumption in America and how those trends impact the environment.  Individuals from Corgan and Corgan Media Lab provided a presentation, discussion, and hands-on demonstration of the trending technologies of Virtual and Augmented Reality. Next, the session organizers led an open discussion about some of the industry trending topics (offsite construction, automation, and connected devices, social media and public outreach, and 3D printing and Generative Design).  The Program Director of the Houston Green Building Resource Center then gave a very dynamic presentation on what’s trending in terms of energy consumption and Green Building. The session concluded with a tour of the Houston Green Building Resource Center where there are many examples of green building materials and strategies.

In the basement of Houston Permitting Center

Presentation 1: “Trending Now – Food Consumption”

Presented by Courtney Brinegar of Burditt Consultants & Danny Rigg of Rigg Studio

Food Chart
One plant-based meal a day is not only healthy but good for the environment



According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the current American diet is greatly deficient in the intake of vegetables, fruit, dairy, and oils.  The American diet includes an excess of added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Food production is the number one consumer of fresh water and the number one cause behind climate change.  One [plant-based] meal a day is not only healthy but good for the environment. Local organizations like Urban Harvest and Finca Tres Robles are making access to plant-based foods in the urban environment more accessible to everyone.  What many people eat is influenced by what is offered and therefore the session organizers went out of there way to arrange for some delicious plant-based food options for this session’s meal offering.

Presentation 2: “Corgan Media Lab – Trending Now Technology”

Presented by Mark Starling, Eric Craft, Nicholas Banks of Corgan and Corgan Media Lab

In recent years, new technologies have been introduced to the design process.  Both virtual and augmented reality are having a large impact on the design and construction process.  Virtual Reality (VR) is stronger for early design, prior to anything being built. Augmented Reality (AR) is a great supplemental tool once construction begins or to observe design ideas in retrofit/renovation scenarios.  The scholars learned about the many hardware offerings available for both VR and AR.

An extremely basic setup can be achieved for just a couple hundred dollars whereas the more advanced systems can cost tens of thousands of dollars.  The good news is that for between $1,500-3,000 all-in (VR program, headset, computer) anyone can have a decent set-up with systems by Google, VIVE, Oculus, etc.  The simple addition of a plug-in like Enscape and a VR headset would allow most architecture firms to implement VR with little training or expense. Using VR, the presenters indicated they can often obtain approvals from clients faster because the client is able to obtain a better sense of scale when in VR.  The presentation concluded with all scholars having the opportunity to try and experience various AR & VR equipment.

Mark interacting with the Microsoft HoloLens, an example of Augmented Reality technology

Presentation 3: “Trending Topics Discussion ”

Presented by Courtney Brinegar of Burditt Consultants & Danny Rigg of Rigg Studio

Session 3The session organizers continued the dialog by presenting a list of trending topics including offsite fabrication, automation, and connected devices, social media and public outreach, and 3D printing and Generative Design.  With a large influx of investment money being given to tech-companies like Katerra and their non-traditional process, the conversation turned toward the future role of architects and became very passionate. How architects will respond and adapt to all these industry disruptors is still to be determined. Several scholars have experience portions of their projects being built partially offsite and then shipped to the job.  The coming of 5G and all things being “connected” will likely influence the built environment in new ways. Social Media and public outreach will continue to be driving forces for motivating the public to demand quality spaces. 3D printing and generative design are at their infancy in terms of impacting the industry and they are certainly technologies to keep an eye on.

Presentation 4: “Trending Now – Green Building”

Presented by Steve Stelzer of the Houston Green Building Resource Center

Steve provided a fast-paced presentation illustrating the current state of affairs when it comes to energy consumption, the environment and ways we can make a difference.  Steve first presented the case and the need for green building. Through lots of data, book references, and examples he illustrated increases in climate, carbon dioxide overload, and top sources of emissions.  The W.A. Parish Coal-burning power plant located just southwest of Houston burns 36,000 tons of coal a day which is enough to fill a 3-mile-long train. It is one of the top 5 dirtiest power plants according to the EPA.  Steve encouraged everyone to do their part in helping the environment by adding more insulation in the building, investing in energy efficiency, influencing others to be active, and talking to your representatives. Steve concluded by sharing Project Drawdown with all the scholars.  Project drawdown provides a list of 100 simple solutions to help reverse global warming.

Session 4
Scholars on a tour of the Green Building Resource Center, lead by Steve Stelzer

“Trending Now – Green Building Resource Center Tour”

The scholars concluded this session by touring the Green Building Resource Center. The resource center helps educate the public about green building and provides the public with an opportunity to see and feel many different materials and solutions.

Conclusion :

The presentations, discussions, demonstrations, and tours in Session 6 (Trending Now) provided participants with insights into the many sources currently influencing and changing their personal lives and the architectural industry.  The session allowed scholars to look to the future and prepare themselves for changes that are occurring or that may be coming. Last, scholars were equipped with information, resources, and tools, to help them and their firms stay on the cutting edge and positively impact the environment around them.


2018-2019 Session 5: Closing the Deal

Date: February 1, 2019

Location: Workplace Solutions

Led by: Rashmi Murthy, Veronica Villanueva

Location Sponsor: Workplace Solutions

Session Sponsors:

  • Crossville Studios
  • CW Lighting
  • Hallmark Building Supplies, Inc.
  • Walter P Moore


The fifth session of the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program, “Closing the Deal” was organized by Rashmi Murthy and Veronica Villanueva, discussing the topics of business development, networking and public speaking, and presentation skills.

The afternoon started off with Dillon Brady, Vice President of Prime Contractors, discussing closing the deal from an owner’s perspective. Dillon is the former General Manager of Construction for Houston Independent School District and Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Construction for Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, and he was able to bring perspectives from both the owner’s and contractor’s point of view. He discussed how architecture is a relationship based profession and developing sound client relationships is the single most important contributor to success. Dillon’s tools for knowing your client are about understanding the client’s business, the client’s personality, and the client’s personal life. He discussed rules to use in developing a good rapport with the client: it is important to be early, do the job you promised to do, and be honest. During and following the conversation, the scholars exchanged in questions and dialogue with Dillon to utilize his insight on the profession from multiple points of view.

Dillon Brady, Vice President of Prime Contractors, discussing closing the deal from an owner’s perspective.

The second speaker of the day was Matt Conner, Head Coach of Coach Conner Consulting, who provided training on business development, networking, and public speaking.  Matt has 24 years of relationship-driven, executive-level marketing and business development experience and has worked in the AEC industry for over 17 years as a Marketing and Business Development Director for Architecture, Engineering, Construction and Project Management Firms. This part of the session started with discussing business development as part of everyone’s job; a team sport and a process. Matt walked the scholars through steps to business development which include in order: planning, positioning, lead identification, lead qualification, project pursuit, written response, interview/presentation, negotiation, project delivery, collect fees, feedback, client maintenance, and “rinse and repeat”. Matt then discussed the importance of networking for everyone and good strategies for introductions, including observing the situation, having a wingman, making eye contact, and having a good handshake.

Matt Conner, Head Coach of Coach Conner Consulting, who provided training on business development, networking, and public speaking. 

After a break, Matt presented on public speaking and presentation skills. He talked about why it was important and keys to effective public speaking which included: knowing your material, knowing your audience, knowing the room, relax, visualize giving the presentation, concentrate on the message, do it and then watch yourself. After discussing these strategies, Matt put the scholars to work practicing their public speaking. Two scholars, Natasha and Peter, gave short speeches on topics of their choosing and the other scholars observed and critiqued the speaker’s eyes, hands, feet, volume, pace, inflection, and use of non-words. After these two scholars presented, the remaining scholars broke out into small groups to practice and receive critique on their public speaking. To conclude, Natasha and Peter presented a second time, focusing on the critiques they received and adjusting their techniques to demonstrate more effective public speaking

Two scholars, Natasha and Peter, gave short speeches on topics of their choosing and the other scholars observed and critiqued the speaker’s eyes, hands, feet, volume, pace, inflection, and use of non-words.

To wrap up the afternoon, Shannon Quadros, a commercial trial lawyer of Kilmer Crosby & Quadros, gave a presentation titled “Closing the Deal for Professional Services – Business Advice from a Legal Rainmaker”. He talked about how closing a deal for professional services really happens much before and after the deal is closed and how closing the deal for professional service firms is completing the work and not just winning the contract. He presented on how closing the deal is about visibility and credibility which then lead to profitability. Shannon discussed how to limit choices to nudge a client into a decision and sometimes how powerful it is to say “no” so that the client says “yes”. He closed his presentation with a discussion about powerful questions versus powerless questions, with power questions being about focus, passion, empowerment, aspiration, and depth. Throughout the presentation, the scholars asked questions and practiced their “pitch” with Shannon.

Shannon discussed how to limit choices to nudge a client into a decision and sometimes how powerful it is to say “no” so that the client says “yes”.

The scholars received a copy of “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman, a recommendation of Shannon, to take home to continue developing strategies for closing the deal. After the session, the scholars and speakers continued the lively conversation at Kirby Ice House.

2018-2019 Session 4: Community Engagement

CKLDP Session 4: Community Engagement

Organized by: Sarah Killingsworth, Natasha Dunn

Location: Avenue Education Center 2804 Fulton Street Houston, TX 77009


Prior to CKLDP Session 4 on community engagement, the below preparatory readings set the stage for what was to come.

Aptly hosted at the Avenue Education Center, the session began with a welcome and overview by Chris Laugelli of Avenue CDC, focusing on their work with affordable housing and especially with assisting homeowners with recovery after Hurricane Harvey.

The session focused on three areas of Community Engagement:

  1. Community Engagement through Public Interest Design
  2. Community Engagement through Political Activism
  3. Community Engagement through Political Leadership

The first speaker of the day was Adelle Main with University of Houston’s Community Design Resource Center (CDRC). Adele walked us through the various efforts undertaken by the CDRC and strategies to enhance the quality of life in low-to-moderate income communities throughout the Houston region through design, research, education, and practice. After a brief presentation, we jumped into our first charrette of the day focused on community engagement through public interest design. The scholars were divided into groups of 5-6, with each group assigned a community. Adelle and her team guided us through a process of conducting a Collaborative Community Design charrette to come up with solutions to the issued faced by each assigned community.

IMG_1453 (2)
Adelle and her team guided us through a process of conducting a Collaborative Community Design charrette to come up with solutions to the issued faced by each community.

Our very own, Sarah Killingsworth was the second speaker of the day – moving the discussion from Community Engagement through public interest design into the realm of political activism.  What is our role as a citizen architect? How can we engage as civic leaders? Sarah’s presentation focused on the AIA Advocacy’s “SpeakUp” training program.  She walked us through the 5 elements of a legislative campaign and equipped us with the process and strategies which we would then apply to the last part of our session and our second activity of the day.

Following Sarah, Houston City Council Member, David W Robinson, At-Large Position 2, joined us for an informal and very informative discussion on his journey as a practicing architect and in the political world. Using his path as an example, we discussed how architects can take on civic leadership roles and build relationships with communities as representative leaders?

Houston City Council Member, David W Robinson, At-Large Position 2, joined us for an informal and very informative discussion on his journey as a practicing architect and in the political world.

Finally, we ended the day with a very engaging “Speak Up” Advocacy Training Activity facilitated by Laura Carrera, Craig Garcia, Sarah Killingsworth, and Natasha Dunn. Immediate application of the process gave us a sense of what it takes to plan and coordinate a sensible campaign. An important take away is that well-intentioned campaigns may fall short of accomplishing the desired goal when efforts focus mostly on execution. This part of the seminar zeroed in on the impact of the preliminary organization, strategic recruitment of influential advocates and careful application of resources.

2018-2019 Session 3: The Art of Negotiating

CKLDP Session 3: The Art of Negotiation

Organized by: Mark Behm, Komal Kotwal

Location: HOK Houston

Working to negotiate the sweet taste of victory

The third session of the Christopher Kelly Leadership Development Program was an exciting set of conversations on the Art of Negotiation. The organizers, Komal Kotwal and Mark Behm, started with a warm-up activity that had the scholars collaborating to spear marshmallows with absurdly long forks. The laughs were loud and the marshmallows were sweet with the taste of victory.


Negotiation, Professional Practice, & Construction Law

The first half of the afternoon focused on Negotiation, Professional Practice and Construction Law. Hugh Painter, an Architect and founding partner of Arc North LLC, kicked off the conversations with a lecture on Principles of Negotiation. Goal-oriented negotiation strategies can be competitive, compromising, collaborative, or accommodative; each with their own benefits depending on the desired outcome or relationship. Situational awareness allows the negotiator to determine the positions and interests of both parties by understanding, questioning, and listening to the other side. Hugh discussed that it is important to define your negotiating envelope by knowing your most desired outcome, least acceptable agreement, and best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Finally, Hugh emphasized the importance of putting the agreement In writing and Agreeing on next steps.

Bob Vecera: What would you fall on your sword for? 

Bob Vecera, Executive VP of Manhattan Construction followed with an engaging lecture on Contract Negotiation. Beginning with a review of contract documents and the importance of specific phrases and inclusions. He gave examples of legal decisions and situations as falling along a spectrum between Ethical and Non-Ethical and Legal or Illegal. We discussed the power of words in contracts and the requirement for mutual consent of the meaning, privity, and precedent. Bob then followed with a helpful refresher on project delivery methods: Design/Build, Design/Bid/Build, and CM at Risk. He then ended with a case study of teenagers who snuck onto the construction site and were injured, demonstrating that anyone with ANY stake in the business can be considered a party and law suites often targeting those with the deepest pockets or greatest visibility.

The third lecture on Conflict Resolution came from Poston Pritchett, Attorney at Andrew Myers. He discussed anticipating disputes: who are the parties, and how will disputes start? When the demand letter is issued, the architect should make sure the party has a right to bring a claim against you and check the contract to determine if there is any validity. We then discussed the format of conflict resolution: Mediation, Arbitration, and Litigation. The Key Considerations would be, who gets to choose dispute process, whether there is a mediation requirement, where will dispute be located, what rules govern the dispute, and what happens if you win/lose? A lively discussion surrounded the Certificate of Merit, a Gatekeeper device required from the plaintiff to prove that the validity of the expert. The typical timeline for a dispute includes Pleadings, Investigation, Discovery, Hearing/Trial Preparation, Final Hearing/ Trial, and the Briefing/Post judgment/Appeal. The conclusion was that Negotiating a contract on the front end should help prevent or anticipate issues that could arise later and mitigate risk.

Salary negotiation with Marie Bergeron

The final presentation on Salary Negotiation was given by Marie Bergeron, the Director of Career Development at the Jones School of Business at Rice University. As a culture, Americans don’t talk about our salary, so how does one discover their going rate? By reviewing salary levels and ranges for a given company in a similar market and noting that most companies actually have a range in mind. We can take advantage of other areas of compensation for negotiability, including bonus, PTO, healthcare, and retirement benefits. During an interview, it is important to make them like you, speak positively about your experience, and ask for an offer in writing. Get a contact to call to discuss the offer, and ensure it is the person who can make decisions about compensation, as it might not always be the boss. A higher level of salary may indicate a different role or title in the company than you are being considered for.

We then discussed how to bring up internal promotions. These primarily come up at performance reviews from the companies side, and we should understand who has the authority to discuss this topic and act on it. It is critical to know your own value, be aware and keep track of your skills and experience that make you unique and beneficial, and useful ways to remind people of your value without bragging. You should know what other options are out there to use as a comparison for a negotiation tool or as a fallback if you hit a limit at your own company. But don’t forget, there is Value in Tenure. Finally, Architecture firms follow the Service company pyramid structure: grinders, minders, finders, binders.


2018-2019 Session 2: Entrepreneurship and Business Management

Date: November 2, 2018

Location: 2East Fire Station

Led by: Clayton Fry, Peter Muessig

Session Sponsors: WeWork

Location Sponsors: Metalab




Clayton Fry and Peter Muessig led the second session of the Christopher Kelley program, “Entrepreneurship and Business Management”. The topic was first introduced through a Rice Design Alliance lecture, “Innovation Lands in Urbanism: What’s Next?” by John Alschuler. During the program session at 2 East Fire Station, John Hand and Justin Stolze presented on the history, structure, and culture of Arup, as well as their experience of establishing local offices and their strategies for firm resilience. Following, Peter Muessig introduced the book “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown as a counterpoint to the expectation of architects having to be jacks-of-all-trades. Adam Koogler then presented his experience of growing a non-traditional practice and engaging the sharing economy at WeWork. To wrap up, Natalye Appel and Jesse Hager joined the previous presenters in a round-table discussion, speaking on their experiences with entrepreneurship and answering ever-prescient questions regarding the practice of architecture.

Session 2 - Gathering at the Firehouse

Presentation 1: “Firm Culture and Management”

Presented by John Hand and Justin Stolze, Arup

Arup Associate, John Hand, began the presentation with an introduction to Arup, a global company that aspires to “shape the world”. John explained Arup’s outlook of being one company with many, small local offices, one of which- the Houston office – he helped establish. His colleague, Justin Stolze, also outlined his role in starting other Arup offices, including one in Japan and Brazil.

Following, John and Justin told the story of their founder, Ove Arup, an English engineer, and the big project that started the firm: the Sydney Opera House. They spoke of Ove Arup’s main aims for the firm, and his lasting legacy of minimizing rules, with the mindset that providing smart, creative people the most leeway possible would create the best solutions. Arup prides itself on their “14,000 specialists” who leverage each other’s expertise to solve problems.

Session 2 - Firm Culture and Management
John Hand and Justin Stolze, Arup

John and Justin also spoke of their internal structure; in particular, the “Four Legs of the Development Stool” – technical, marketing, commercial, and administrative or management, and their project approval process, based on thresholds of cost.  They also outlined their internal professional development processes, from hiring new graduates, to formal training modules, to their project manager certification process.

They concluded the presentation with a discussion of trends that the company is looking to adopt, such as developing an internal university, performing additional research, and utilizing new tools including grasshopper, machine learning, digital automation, and many others.


Book Recommendation: “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown


Presented by Peter Muessig, Metalab

Peter Muessig of Metalab provided a quick introduction to Greg McKeown’s award-winning book, “Essentialism”. Peter summarized the concept as “doing less, but better,” noting how especially relevant this is to architects, who have traditionally carried the expectation of being “master builders,” while also combating the pressure of finding a focus or industry.


Presentation 2: “Starting and Growing Non-Traditional Practice”

Presented by Adam Koogler, WeWork

Session 2 - Starting and Growing Non-Traditional Practice
Adam Koogler of WeWork

Adam Koogler of WeWork began his presentation with an introduction of WeWork, a company in the business of “designing [workspaces], building [workspaces], and filling [workspaces]” that seeks to “make a life, not just a living,” or humanizing the experience of the workplace. Founded in 2010, WeWork purchases ventures and sells access plans to workspaces at a variety of scales and levels of customizability.

Following, Adam explained what makes WeWork unique from other real estate or design firms. Because WeWork vertically integrates their functions – from acquiring real estate, designing the spaces, and brokering leases – there is less stuff for the owner to handle, so they can better focus on actually operating their business. In addition, WeWork continually monitors and updates their spaces based on live analytics, rather than going by traditional space capital improvement plans, which are often out of phase with economic changes.

Adam’s presentation concluded with a discussion of what makes WeWork different from a traditional architectural practice. Instead of separating by profession, employees work on cross-functional teams and are assigned to projects with professionals from different disciplines, while also maintaining access to others from the same discipline. Because of this interdisciplinary approach, WeWork operates projects with a Project Execution Plan, rather than a BIM Execution plan, and their iterative, streamlined process allows for consistency and clarity of information, rather than relying on “guesstimation” by contractors, reducing overall project cost and duration.


Roundtable: “Entrepreneurship in Architecture”

Presented by John Hand, Justin Stolze, Adam Koogler, Natalye Appel (Natalye Appel & Associates Architects), and Jesse Hager (Content Architecture)

For the final portion of Session 2, Natalye Appel of Natalye Appel & Associates Architects and Jesse Hager of Content Architecture joined John Hand, Justin Stolze, and Adam Koogler for a free-form roundtable discussion. After introducing themselves, Natalye and Jesse gave a brief history of their practices, with Natalye noting that her firm has “grown” over time, not by increasing in size, but by collaborating with others, while Jesse mused that his firm transformed from a Heights bungalow renovation business, to a full-service, ground-up residential firm, much to the chagrin of former real estate contacts.

Session 2 - Roundtable: “Entrepreneurship in Architecture”
Presented by John Hand, Justin Stolze, Adam Koogler, Natalye Appel (Natalye Appel & Associates Architects), and Jesse Hager (Content Architecture)

One of the questions posed during the roundtable was, “why don’t firms participate in more in-house collaboration?”, particularly because all of the speakers’ experiences seemed to indicate that collaboration across disciplines was a positive thing. Beyond the basic assumption of higher risk, it was also pointed out that different disciplines follow different paces – for example, engineers turn over projects faster than architects. In the case of WeWork, they mitigate this risk by only doing in-house what is practical and necessary, such as only drawing to 50% Design Development internally, and utilizing architects and engineers of record to complete the remainder of the project. In addition, it was noted that it can also be a positive thing to have differing interests, which forces companies to produce good, efficient solutions, rather than becoming “too comfortable” under the same umbrella.

The following question prompted the speaker’s’ opinion of the AIA’s recent movement toward specialization, such as “AIA Healthcare” and its potential to restrict a more generalist approach to architectural practice. Although those from more traditional architectural firms were cautious of this change, Arup noted that they boast about having “14,000 specialists”, but that the reception of this may have to do with differing public perceptions of architects versus engineers. Jesse added that sometimes, developing a specialty can happen unintentionally, such as his experience of working on a small healthy nail salon eventually leading to a global headquarters project for a healthy brand.

The final question presented was one that every practice inevitably has to contend with – how do you survive an economic downturn? Justin offered up a solution he experienced while at Arup Japan – switching to a three-day workweek – which interestingly, due to the Japanese culture of overwork, actually only equated to a more normal workweek. Natalye also shared her strategy of sharing and switching employees with contact firms to help for a short duration or to work on a specific project. She noted that although these employees sometimes choose not to return, because of her collaborative approach to practice and permissive response to such departures, they remain “in [her] universe” and can still continue to work together in the future. To conclude, Adam warned that it is hardest for firms to be “mid-size”, with a higher workload but still having to handle multiple responsibilities at the same time.


Conclusion :

The presentations and roundtable discussion in Session 2: Entrepreneurship and Business Management provided participants with insights into the process of starting and operating a successful firm, as well as strategies for growth and continued firm resilience. The different practice types represented by the speakers also provided variety in opinions and expertise, allowing for a richer perspective and more comprehensive understanding of architectural entrepreneurship and business management.


2018-2019 Session 1: Working Together


Date: October 5, 2018

Location: Kirksey Architecture

Led by: Altair Galgana-Wood, Sam McGlone

Session Sponsors: Pinnacle Structural Engineers

Location Sponsor: Kirksey Architecture



Organized by Altair Galgana-Wood and Sam McGlone, this opening session of the Christopher Kelley program addressed the most fundamental part of leadership: “working together” with those you lead. This session featured two speakers and one practical activity, allowing participants to both learn and apply lessons directly. Beginning the week before with each participant taking a DISC personality assessment, Alyse Makarewicz shared the class’ results mapped on the 2-axis DISC graph in relation to each other. Following, participants broke into teams of four for a “Write It, Do It” communication activity using text, voice, and sketch instructions to rebuild a Tinkertoy object accurately without direct observation. Finally, leader and entrepreneur David Steitz explored the value and use of 360 Degree Assessments in soliciting and understanding feedback and opportunities for personal growth.  

Presentation 1: Alyse Makarewicz

Beginning the session, guest presenter Alyse Makarewicz identified the strengths of each individual participant in the session based on their recent DISC assessment prior to the class. Alyse, the president of her own small firm, shared how her knowledge of the DISC profiles and personalities helps her identify best fits for new hiring, facilitates better communicate with her team and with her business partner, as well as promotes effective information for clients.


Each quadrant in the DISC personality assessment corresponds to one of four letters: D, I, S, and C – which coincide to a list of traits and strengths. The assessment organizes traits by two main axes: “People-Oriented / Task-Oriented” and “Reserved / Outgoing”. The general terms associated with these four quadrants are Dominance (D), Influence (I), Supportive (S), and Compliance (C ). An individual, while often having representation in all four or a combination of these quadrants, generally has one dominant trait which helps identify their preferred approach to behavior, teamwork, and communication.


Two versions of assessment results provided an “environmental style” and a “basic style” for each individual. The “environmental style”  indicates the behavioral style in which work and life circumstances asks or requires the subject to perform. The “basic style” reveals the subjects preference for communication and behavior in their natural state, as well as innate strengths.


Participants were given colored stickers for their name tags and arranged in the four corners of the room based on their dominant trait. These results led to discussion on the best work environment for each personality type, effective ways to communicate expectations and identify strengths, and the best way to leverage strengths from teammates as well as in current positions.


Activity: Write It, Do It

As a communication exercise, participants divide into teams of four, with two of each team taken to another room. One pair of team members were given a completed model made of tinker toys and the other pair of team member were given individual tinker toy parts. The two participants with the complete model direct their remote teammates solely through either texts, verbal descriptions through phone calls, hand sketches sent by couriers, or digital sketches using Bluebeam on a computer screen in an attempt to replicate the model from individual parts. After each team felt satisfied with their construction, the pre-assembled toy and the toy produced from remote instructions were brought together and compared. The CKLDP group analyzed the end-result for accuracy, as well as identify the success and failure of each method of communication.


Teams found that many unexpected issues arose, including non-matching parts and miscommunication; creating a common vocabulary for toy parts that resembled real-world things, such as “spatula” or “quarter cheese wheel”; and specifying model or connection orientation such as “perpendicular” or “align”. One key observation was the success of strategizing before diving in, rather than solely relying on situational communication and leadership ability to resolve issues.  

Session 2: Dave Steitz

The afternoon wrapped up with an engaging discussion about 360 Degree Assessments, including typical uses and best practices; and differing perceptions and responses to representative questions within the CKLDP group. Dave Steitz, coming from a business and entrepreneurship background, offered plenty of perspective as a business leadership consultant. He highlighted the importance of Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, as a factor that could be developed and learned, while IQ (cognitive intelligence) is fixed. Developing Emotional intelligence involves a continuous, connected process of Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Self-awareness, and Relationship Management.

Dave promotes structure to think about leadership and professional development, insisting that change requires measurable goals which allow analysis. The 360 Assessments accumulates information on an individual by asking interval scale questions of that individual, their manager, their peers, and direct reports. The review process includes several questions in each of nine broad categories:


  • Ensuring long-term results
  • Leading others
  • Building strong teams
  • Managing outcomes
  • Delegating to others
  • Developing others
  • Making decisions
  • Dealing with conflicting ideas
  • Personal and professional growth.


Dave went through a number of the questions with the group, asking the participants how they would rate themselves at certain tasks, demeanor or opinions relating to the categories above. For example, on a rating of 1 to 5, with 5 being always and 1 being never, do you “Establish timelines and measurable outcomes for initiatives”? We went around the group and rated ourselves. Then Dave asked participants to consider the viewpoint of a manager or direct report. By comparing outside perspectives, these assessments provide a more complete picture of the individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Answering these assessment questions as a group allowed CKLDP participants to become more aware of their own perceptions, possibly mis-perceptions, and emotional triggers, as well as differing perspectives. Some responses had a wide spread, particularly on a self-assessment of communication and delegation ability. The most intense discussion came in response to the sample question “Monitors progress regularly” and particularly the term “monitor”, signalling a discomfort with the connotation of mistrust, while others criticized the general apathy of mentors to properly oversee and communicate expectations to junior staff in an industry where on-the-job-training is a requirement for licensure, but can often be poorly managed. Other issues that were discussed include healthy and unhealthy conflict; recognizing vague or non-measurable feedback as ineffective; and encouraging the use of positive feedback.


The assessment and leaderships strategies covered in this first session are fundamental in “Working Together” and an insightful start to the CKLDP curriculum. This information enables leaders to better understand one another, learn particular strengths, and discuss experiences of fellow classmates. Additionally, the assessment and communication tools gained over the course of the session provides a base from which to launch a more thorough self-development and farther reaching career plan, hopefully benefiting each individual and the profession as a whole.

2018-2019 Session 0: Bootcamp


Date: September 7, 2018

Location: Bell & McCoy Companies

Led by: Amaya Labrador, Rebekah Gandy, Nicholas Banks, Kevin Barden, Michelle Huertas

Location Sponsors: Bell & McCoy Companies



The Inaugural AIA Houston CKLDP Class of 2019 kicked off with a Bootcamp Session, hosted in the Bell & McCoy offices. Amaya Labrador, current chair and past DC scholar, and Rebekah Gandy, vice chair, welcomed the incoming class. Ricardo Rodriguez, liaison to CKLDP DC and past chair, was also present to help guide the session.


Opening comments were delivered by AIA Houston Executive Director, Rusty Bienvenue and AIA Houston President, Derek Webb. The Bootcamp featured keynote speaker Annise Parker, former Mayor of Houston and Fellow at the Doerr Institute for New Leaders. Mayor Parker shared her personal leadership path, and highlighted her development as a politician – that also happens to be an introvert.


Scholars participated then in a Pecha Kucha exercise, speaking to their leadership styles, and in a brainstorming session to develop the year’s content. Closing comments were delivered by John T. Clegg, AIA Houston President-Elect.


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.

Applications for the 2020 Class will open Spring of 2019; sponsorship opportunities are available by emailing the committee.