“Jeanne Gang and Mark Schendel at Studio Gang Architects taught me how to diagram, push boundaries, ask the right questions and collaborate with many disciplines toward true innovation. And Margaret Cavenagh at Studio Gang empowered me to learn great communication skills and how to prioritize across multiple projects, which I liken to Chinese plate-spinning. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Walter Herbst from Northwestern University, who is a true product design legend. He transformed how I think about design. It was through his program that I realized I wanted to combine human-centered design with architecture. I believe that this is the future of the architecture practice.”
“IM Pei of IM Pei and Partners was one of my first role models. He instilled in me the importance of setting a clear vision and project structure so that even a lowly intern, such as myself at the time, could understand the design intent, and was thereby empowered to make decisions that aligned with the overall project’s intent. It is a lesson that I have carried with me throughout my career: In order to achieve a consistent, high level of design quality, it is important that every team member understands the goal and is invested in the outcome.”
“Throughout my life as I’ve grown personally and professionally, my role models have changed. However, at my foundation are my parents. Together they have helped me unfold. My mother’s willingness to take on practically anything, to try new activities, meet new people and push herself outside the boundaries of her comfort while staying true to herself and her beliefs, broadened my view on the benefits of this approach to life: Give it a try. You don’t know if you’ll like it until you try it — whatever “it” may be. My father’s hard work ethic, level-headed business sense, thirst to learn and drive to put your best foot forward in your chosen profession showed me what it takes to succeed and that you don’t quit. You do the best you can, put your back into it, evaluate the situation and options. Only then, after you push yourself and finish what you started, can you decide to try something else.
My parents didn’t know what architecture was, so they had no idea what the heck I was up to other than drawing on paper and Mylar, which was then transformed by contractors into a building that positively impacted a community and people were happy. So they helped shape my career by asking a lot of questions and talking to me about my growth in the profession. This questioning helped me evaluate how I was doing, what I was doing and why I was doing it. They helped me forge a career path to be proud of, for in the end, my legacy will stand in the communities in which I’ve worked long after I am gone.
After 22 years of practice, my latest role model is my 8-year-old, in perpetuity, nephew, Eli. His zeal for life, his vision to see the beauty in others, his ability to make friends with whoever crossed his path by just saying “hi” and giving a damn, and his tenacity to play hard because no matter what as he’d often say — ‘Come on guys, stop fighting and let’s just play.’ It’s a daily reminder: It’s not that bad, let’s figure it out and it’s really good and fun when we work together. Eli has shaped my career moving forward by focusing on bringing out the best in others, to drive toward a cohesive vision, giving a damn about others and the work I do and knowing that together we are better.”
“I have been fortunate to have many fantastic mentors throughout my career. Very early on when I worked in marketing for a large financial services company, I was inspired by Denise LaBuda’s strategic thinking and leadership skills. I like to think that some of her talents rubbed off on me! Behavioral geographer Doug Amedeo was also a huge influence in amplifying my passion for exploring and understanding how the built environment impacts our everyday lives. Katherine Ankerson was a thoughtful and insightful teacher and mentor when I returned to school to study design. She encouraged my wild idea to pursue a doctorate in public health (alas, more school!) to focus on built environment research. Finally, my Ph.D. advisor and mentor, Terry Huang, has been a huge influence. Terry is a stellar scientist who never fails to bring a new and creative perspective to a situation. It was an incredible honor to work with him, and I always strive to be at least half as creative as he is!”
“Heike Goeller, one of my studio professors at Ohio State, had an incredible influence on me long before I realized it. She taught me to be thoughtful and sensitive to human needs while designing. She also encouraged collaboration. Beyond being passionate about design, the quality that I valued most in Heike was that she taught you to respect your peers and be open-minded about what others have to say. She has most definitely contributed to the person I am today.”