Fall WIELD Event

Women Inspiring Emerging Leaders in Design is hosting its fourth signature WIELD event on November 11th. We are honored to celebrate Veteran's Day with the stories of four local female veterans and their journeys from the military to the design and social service industries.

This inclusive and inspiring story-telling event engages diverse industry leaders sharing their stories of empowerment and resilience through the lens of the Equity by Design survey key findings. The stories will highlight how each individual overcame pinch points and career dynamics that hinder career progression, while sharing the opportunities that encouraged their growth and success. The underlying objective is to establish meaningful and deep conversations among all emerging professionals and firm leaders from every background, gender, and community about engaging the next generation of leaders in the future of the profession and our communities.

Meet and be inspired by women that empower and encourage advancement in their professions, as well as those just starting their careers. This is your chance to meet a future mentor and network with fellow emerging leaders.


Moderated by: 

Yiselle Santos Rivera, Associate AIA, LSSYB, LEED AP, WELL AP
Yiselle Santos is the Director of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) for global design and architecture firm HKS, Inc. She is a senior medical planner in the HKS DC office Healthcare studio with experience on a broad range of healthcare, commercial, institutional, and mixed-use national and international projects. Mrs. Santos graduated with a B.S. in General Science from the University of Puerto Rico, received an M. Arch. I degree from Syracuse University School of Architecture. In 2013, she co-founded the AIA|DC’s Latin American Interior Designers, Engineers, and Architects Committee (LA.IDEA), the leading collective of Latin American design professionals in the DC metro area, and in 2017, also founded the award-winning Women Inspiring Emerging Leaders in Design. 


Kia Weatherspoon - Owner, Determined by Design
Kia Weatherspoon is a design advocate. She founded Determined by Design, a minority-and-veteran-owned business in 2012 to bring design equity to affordable and supportive housing projects. Her firm's practice focuses on making interior design a standard for all (and not a luxury for a few.) Kia leads a creative social impact business that has seen continual growth and created change in the housing industry. She has been recognized by Boutique Design magazine as a Hero + Maverick advocating for Design Equity practices in multi-family housing.  One of the Washington Business Journal’s 40 under 40, and the Housing Association of Non-Profit Developers Emerging Leader. Weatherspoon is charged with being woman and leader of color who is an example of what is possible for those who are determined by design.

La Tanya E. Simms
Owner & Executive Designer, TLK Graphic Solutions
La Tanya Simms’ interest in the intersection of culture, community, people, and place was sparked while studying architecture at Florida A&M University.  A well-respected leader, mentor, and trailblazer, La Tanya E. Simms gained extensive leadership and program and project management experience serving in the U.S. Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), retiring at the rank of captain after 26 years. She was the first African-American woman in the CEC to rise to this rank in Navy history, responsible for the command of a construction battalion, a 650-person unit capable of any type of construction worldwide.  

Post-naval service, La Tanya accepted a position at Northwestern University in 2017 as the Senior Director of Capital Programs, Facilities Management. She recently returned to Maryland and launched a graphic design business.

Paula J. Loomis - Director of Research, The Urban Collaborative  
Dr. Paula J. Loomis is the Director of Research, Senior Architect and Senior Planner of The Urban Collaborative LLC, an award-winning interdisciplinary planning and urban design firm that provides leadership for the Department of Defense’s growing needs for environmentally, fiscally, and socially sustainable military installations. She has over 34 years of experience in architecture, planning, programming, sustainability design and development, resiliency, facility operations, education and training, policy development and urban design for the largest federal facility operating agencies – the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and General Services Administration as well as private and public-sector clients. Dr Loomis is a faculty member of the School of Engineering and Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology.

Melanie Froemke
Supervisee in Social Work, Alexandria Place Therapy
She received her undergraduate degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, and then pursued her Master of Science in Social Administration (MSSA/MSW) from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.  She is a licensed graduate in Social Work in the District of Columbia and is currently working toward licensure in the Commonwealth of Virginia as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. As a yoga, mindfulness, and meditation instructor for many years, Melanie understands the distinct mind-body connection, and offers expressive therapies to meet each client. Through expressive arts, mindful movement, meditation, mindfulness, and evidence-based practices, Melanie establishes a distinct therapeutic connection and provides the space for healing and growth.

At the completion of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Discuss the process of transitioning careers from the military to civilian roles;
  • Describe how emerging professionals can connect their passions with different specializations to find their niche within the profession;
  • Explain the pinch points and career dynamics that can affect professional growth; and
  • Envision the future of the architecture profession and how emerging professionals can contribute.