February 21, 2023

From the desk of Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA
Director of Government & Public Affairs

AIA Leadership Summit 2023

In February, I had the opportunity to attend the AIA Leadership Summit in Washington D.C. and to participate in the annual Lobby Day for our visit to Capital Hill on February 15th.

During our visit to Capital Hill, I joined both Kevin Holland, FAIA, NOMAC – Chair, AIA Government Advocacy & Doug Hanson, FAIA, NOMA – President, Hanson LA in our meetings with the offices of U.S. Representative Tony Cardenas and U.S. Representative Sydney Kamlager.  We shared with legislative staff more details about the following two advocacy initiatives and to solicit their support and further involvement.

The Democracy In Design Act (support)

To ensure that communities across the country maintain a voice in the design of federal buildings consistent with their preferences, topographies, and design traditions. Although Congress has not yet introduced a bill version for the Democracy In Design Act in the 118th Congress, the previous version of the bill from the 117th Congress can be found here as H.R. 5291.

The Resilient AMERICA Act (support)

To make significant changes to the federal government’s ability to prepare communities for future natural disaster events by:

+  increasing funding for FEMA’s pre-disaster mitigation grant program (the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Program)
+  supporting additional BRIC Programs set aside funding for resilient building code adoption and implementation.

The Resilient AMERICA Act is also pending reintroduction for the 118th Congress. The bill’s previous version from the 117th Congress can be found here as H.R. 5689.

We met with Ella Khorov – Legislative Assistant, Congressman Tony Cardenas, 29th District CA



After two years of virtual gatherings, AIA’s premier chapter leadership training returned to an In-Person event and served as a forum to provide insight and best-practices on a wide-range of topics and initiatives — ranging from D,E,I, Design Excellence, engaging multiple generations, the power of mentorship, recruitment & retention, and creative programming to generate non-dues revenue among many more workshops.

My Five Key Take-Aways Include:

On Promoting Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging

Dr. Shirley Davis – President & CEO, SDS Global Enterprises, Inc. led a workshop about how to best integrate EDI initiatives into your strategic plan, measure impact, and to build external relationships to optimize resources and leverage outreach.

During the presentation, we discussed in depth the Six Traits of Inclusive Leadership:
+ Commitment to diversity & inclusion
+ Courage to challenge the status quo
+ Cognizance of Bias and mindful of personal and organizational blind spots
+ Curiosity about how others experience the world
+ Cultural Intelligence to be confident and effective in cross-cultural interactions
+ Collaborative relationships to leverage the thinking & perspectives of diverse groups

On the power of Mentorship

Whitney Young Award Winners

Steven Lewis, FAIA, NOMAC – Principal, ZGF & Founder, Thinking Leadership

Kathryn T. Prigmore, FAIA, NOMAC – Principal & Director of Washington DC, Moody Nolan

Meet Kathryn Bradford Tyler Prigmore, FAIA, NOMAC, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C, CDT

“Ms. Prigmore is the Founding Collaborator (with Barbara G, Laurie, AIA – deceased) of Riding the Vortex: African American Women in Practice.”

“Notably, she was one of the first 20 African American Women registered to practice architecture in the United States”

Core Values:
The ability to listen – it takes practice & courage

Building the foundation of becoming a trusted mentor

William Willoughby, AIA – President, AIA Akron

Graham L. Thomas, AIA – President, AIA Potomac Valley

AI Northern Virginia
AIA 360 Mentoring Program
3 or 4 people meet once a month

Chris Kelly Leadership Program
“Pick a project”

AIA Next To Lead Mentorship Program

“Never draw a line for whose meaning you don’t know.” – Steven Lewis, FAIA, NOMAC
“The transferable ethos of Black Joy.” – Steven Lewis, FAIA, NOMAC

To frame performance reviews as personal & professional development opportunities

“The Velvet Sledgehammer” – Brad from the West Coast?

Establishing a multidisciplinary approach in an organic (unforced) mentorship program….

On Creating Revenue Streams to Support the Chapter’s Core Values & Initiatives

One of the more energetic workshops was about “Creative Programming to Generate Non-Dues Revenue” and involved Jeff Gill, FAIA – Executive Director, AIA Orange County and Andrew Flank – Senior Vice President of Sales & Events, AIA National.  During the Q&A it was interesting to hear the various ideas from other AIA chapters, which included AIA Houston’s Sand Castle building contest, AIA Florida’s “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?”, and the “Spaghetti & Marshmallows” contest from AIA Staten Island, where you work with kids to build structures out of only spaghetti and marshmallows (no glue allowed).  Suzanne Barnes, AIA from AIA Florida described the fundraising program as an opportunity for architects to host a small dinner party for 8 people in their home and for the Chapter to sell tickets, etc.

One of my questions to Andrew Flank was how local components (such as AIA Los Angeles) can more effectively leverage the corporate partnerships that AIA National curates and leads.  What’s the best way for us to gain access to solicit support for our local programs from these national and international corporate entities that we may not have direct access to?

On Connecting Multiple Generations to Each Other

One of the more thought-provoking keynote speakers was Kim Lear – Generational Expert, Writer & Strategist, Inlay Insights.

Her nearly hour-long presentation, illustrated just how neurologically diverse and distinct each generation can be from each other, and how significantly this impacts working environments, office culture, and collaboration.  She helped provide insight about how to become more tolerant of these differences and how Baby-boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Gen Z can more effectively work together to optimize and enhance outcomes, increase productivity, and foster a more compassionate work-place culture.

On The Power of the Arts To Reach People

In her introduction about the inspirational life & leadership of businesswoman Shelia C. Johnson – Co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET) & CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, Kimberly Dowdell, AIA – First Vice President & 2023 Leadership Summit Chair, AIA National quoted James Baldwin – “Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.”

As the first billionaire African-American woman, Ms. Johnson shared the inspirational arc of her life, spanning three unique fields – first as a professional violinist, then as the Co-founder of BET, and now the CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts.

She stressed the vital importance of her core values that have translated to such success (perseverance, courage, and fortitude) and emphasized the power of the arts to reach people, to connect with them emotionally and intuitively.




During the Leadership Summit, I was also fortunate to connect with several colleagues and foster new connections.

Who is in Charge?
Janiece L. Williams, NOMA – Co-founder & Executive Director, LeaderFlow

Citizen Architect
Kevin Holland, FAIA, NOMAC – Chair, AIA Government Advocacy

Doug Hanson, FAIA, NOMA – President, Hanson LA

Rachel Adams, AIA – President, AIA Pasadena Foothill Chapter & Partner/ Managing Principal, Architecture for Education, Inc.

Will Teass, AIA – Managing Principal, Teass \ Warren Architects & President-elect, AIA Washington, D.C.

TW – Profile-2

Anson M. Stuart, AIA, NOMA – Principal Architect, EcoDistricts AP

Heather Skeehan, AIA – Project Manager, Citizen M Hotels


Winston Thorne, AIA, NOMA – Past President, AIA Pasadena





Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA
Director, Government & Public Affairs
t: 213.639.0764