2015 Session 6: Philanthropy and Board Involvement

Date: March 6, 2015
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Carissa Gavin, LEED AP & Yiselle Santos, LEED AP BD+C

Session 6 PDF


The sixth session of the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program (CKLDP) was held at Perkins + Will and despite the miserable cold and snow, Yiselle Santos and Carissa Gavin had nearly a full house for their full day of discussion on philanthropy, advocacy and board involvement and how these affect practice.


Anica Landreneau, Global Sustainable Consulting Director at HOK DC, offered the recommendation to future leaders in the room that we, as design professionals, need to define the world in which we want to work; we need to lead the charge and advocate for such initiatives as green building and higher standards. Anica’s narrative of all her active roles on boards and in developing green building standards provided broad look into the interdependence between advocacy and profitable design practice.DSC_7361

To expand this discourse on profitable practice in the design professions, Brian Sykes, Project Manager at Perkins + Will followed Anica with an impassioned presentation on the discrepancy between creating “really good architecture” and the economic value of the services and products that are provided. Brian was vocal about the purpose of our profession (creating “really good architecture” through a harmonious combination of building science, culture and aesthetics) and the need for a market-based initiative to support quality and high standards in what we do regarding health, safety and welfare for users of our work.

Anica and Brian introduced us to the WHY of advocacy and active involvement. Up next were discussions on the HOW and introductions to a variety of ways to affect change.

Amanda Stratton, Senior Manager of AIA Advocacy Outreach outlined the basics on how to get involved through the AIA. The purpose of the AIA’s 2015 marketing campaign on advocacy is to provide opportunities for each of us to participate in delivering a unified voice to government and community decision makers. Amanda urged us each to take advantage of the programs the AIA already has in place that encourage communication, advocacy and outreach.

Sophia Lau, Chair of the AIA DC Advocacy Committee, discussed a smaller-scale, more organic approach to empowering and educating architects and clients. The AIA DC Advocacy Committee is a small group shaped by passionate members. They reflect upon the major relationships between architects and clients and our professional service to the community and humanity and organize meet & greets, education opportunities and collaborative events that bring together politicians, clients, architects, designers, and other important roles.

Nora Wendl, Assistant Professor of Architecture at Portland State University switched gears and presented a different approach to advocacy and public awareness of the power of architecture through contextual exploration. Examples including artist Theaster Gates and major architectural works like the Farnsworth House provided us a glimpse into the less traditional method of encouraging human interaction with the built environment. Typically, art is divorced from its surrounding context but Theaster Gates has made a life’s work of preserving and highlighting the beauty and value of things WITHIN their spaces and places.

Similarly, in an effort to raise money for and awareness of the Farnsworth House preservation and maintenance efforts, the The Farnsworth House Trust has launched some art exhibitions that use the architecture as not only an object but as an attractor and as a mediator human interaction with art.

To close out the presentation portion of the day, Katie Yanushonis, Leasing Director at Boston Properties, shared one of her prized philanthropic experiences. As Co-Chairperson of The JDRF Real Estate Games she spoke about some valuable lessons she has learned coordinating and participating in this event over the years. In order to balance work and extracurricular demands, Katie strongly recommends that one follows her personal passion when it comes time to choosing committee work or volunteerism. In addition to simply being a personally fulfilling endeavor, all speakers of the day have reiterated that they learned new skills in their philanthropic work and have developed professionally and personally.

DSC_7405Finally, the much-anticipated round-table format, the final speaker-led activity of the day, included Katie Yanushonis, Nora Wendl and Louise Boulton-Lear, CPSM Vice President at DAVIS Construction. Each roundtable speaker briefly listed their personal involvement in organizations or boards. This outline of their individual involvement acted as a collection of case studies that CKLDP scholars then had time to react to and ask questions about. We delved into topics including…Who should be on a board? And what makes a board fail or succeed?…Is a developing continuous message/mission important? What are some good strategies to do this?

This full day of presentation and discussion on advocacy, involvement, professional empowerment and philanthropy was capped off with a walk around the Perkins + Will offices past the technologically advanced shop with the fancy MakerBot and the innovative layout of work/office space with doors removed from the offices of the upper-level folks – followed by a very chilly walk the few blocks to Happy Hour at Bayou on Pennsylvania Ave.