WIELD: Women Inspiring Emerging Leaders in Design

Emerging Leaders in Design and Construction join us at the AIA Women's Leadership Summit 2017 Emerging Professionals Outreach Committee's first event: Women Inspiring Emerging Leaders in Design #AIAWIELD. Listen, meet, and be empowered by women that inspire and encourage advancement in their professions, as well as professionals just starting their careers. This is your chance to meet a future mentor and network with your fellow emerging leaders.

In this HKS, Inc. sponsored inspiring story-telling event diverse industry leaders will share their stories of empowerment and resilience through the lens of the Equity by Design Survey Key Findings. The stories will highlight how each individual was able to overcome... 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 emerging professionals and firm leaders from every background and every community about engaging the Next Generation of Leaders in the future of the profession.

For those not able to attend this year's already sold-out AIA Women's Leadership Summit in DC, this is a unique opportunity to continue the conversation started at the Women's Leadership Summit. All Summit attendees are encouraged to attend this event after final plenary on September 16th at 4pm at the District Architecture Center, seed of the AIA Washington, DC Chapter. The venue is just blocks away. Come celebrate Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion with the industry's leaders. Seal an amazing weekend of empowerment and be inspired, wield!

The event will be followed by a networking mixer – music, food, and drinks will be provided - where we encourage emerging professionals to build networking opportunities with their colleagues and seek relationships with future mentors in the profession.


Julie Hiromoto, AIA
Julie Hiromoto joined HKS in early 2016 as a Vice President and is the New York Office Director. She balances design excellence and technical expertise as an HKS project manager and member of the Global Design Council. Her experience includes realizing complex and large-scale commercial, residential, and mixed use towers (including One World Trade Center), corporate headquarter fit outs, urban design master planning, and research initiatives with the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE).

Ms. Hiromoto is a recognized leader in the local and national sustainable design community. She is the Vice Chair of the AIA Large Firm Roundtable Sustainability Group and volunteers as a Living Future Ambassador Presenter. Julie has taught at NYU’s Shack Institute of Real Estate since 2009 and influenced the curriculum for the Sustainable Design Certificate program. She was invited to join the inaugural Dean’s Adjunct Advisory Group in 2015. In addition to lecturing internationally at conferences, universities, and General Electric’s Executive Leadership Development Retreat, Hiromoto is also a frequent guest critic at institutions such as Columbia University GSAPP, University of Michigan, Georgia Tech, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Parsons The New School of Design, and Pratt Institute.

Julie completed a BS ARCH at Georgia Tech and M.Arch from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Presentation (GSAPP). A Registered Architect, Hiromoto is also WELL, LEED, and Living Future Accredited.

Cheryl McAfee, FAIA
Cheryl McAfee has spent her career breaking down racial and gender barriers and championing diversity and equity in architecture.  With nearly 40 years of trailblazing in the design industry, she is bringing passion, energy, and experience to the AIA’s Women Inspiring Emerging Leaders in Design.

As CEO and Principal of McAfee3 Architects, Cheryl creates vision and a management structure to navigate the challenges and opportunities of the design and construction market place.  With offices in Atlanta, Dallas, and Wichita, McAfee3 provides design services nationally.

Cheryl is currently Principal Architect for several major projects including the newly completed 25,000SF Library for South Fulton Georgia, Master Planner for 2 key areas of the Atlanta BeltLine, and Sr. Principal Program Manager for Fulton County.  From 2000 – 2013, she served as Principal Architect on a master planning and design joint venture for the $7 billion expansion of the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s most traveled airport.  She was the Senior Program Manager of design and construction for all 33 sports venues of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.  In 2013, Cheryl was selected as “Woman of the Year” by the Atlanta Business League.  Her project experience includes major planning, programming and urban design studies, feasibility studies, and real estate investment programs.

Inspired by her father, Charles F. McAfee, FAIA, and growing up during the 1960’s when Civil Rights laws were just being enacted, Cheryl has made a career out of trailblazing.  She was the first African American woman in Kansas history to receive a license in architecture. Her firm is the first—and only—in AIA history in which a father and two daughters are AIA Fellows. She was the first African American to chair an AIA Conference on Architecture in Boston in 2008 and she was the first woman to be elected President of the National Organization of Minority Architects.  Cheryl also Chaired the 1998 AIA National Diversity Conference in Atlanta.

“I have such a passion for justice…I try to figure out what I can do to make a difference—and how I can make a difference as an architect.”

Hilda Espinal, AIA
Hilda Espinal, AIA is Chief Technology Officer for CannonDesign, an internationally renowned design firm with 15 offices and 1,000 employees worldwide. A licensed Architect in the state of Illinois, she is equipped with a rare understanding of the constantly evolving world of digital design, Hilda helps CannonDesign and its clients leverage cutting-edge technology to enhance value and advance the design profession. In 2016, the Dallas Business Journal named Hilda one of the “Top Women in Technology.”

Hilda joined CannonDesign in 2017 with more than 16 years’ experience leading technological advances in computational tools and workflows, augmented and virtual reality, building information modeling and advanced analysis and visualization at global design firms. Beyond her role with CannonDesign, Hilda is also the Active National Board Director of Women for Economic Leadership and Development, a Microsoft-certified systems engineer, and a regular speaker at both national and industry events including TechWeek Chicago and Engineering News Record’s Groundbreaking Women in Construction Summit.

Core to Hilda’s story, she is a Dominican Republican immigrant who moved to the United States at the age of 16 with the singular goal of studying architecture. She began her studies in the City of Chicago (a mecca for American architecture) and is now based in CannonDesign’s Chicago office while leading its international digital design team.


Kimberly Lewis
As Senior Vice President of the U.S. Green Building Council, Kimberly works to integrate, diversify and globalize USGBC’s community of volunteers, chapters and emerging professionals from around the world. She is also the driving force behind USGBC’s events, including its annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building.


Leigh Stringer
Leigh Stringer is a workplace strategy expert and researcher whose work has been covered recently by BBC News, The Globe and Mail, Fortune, CNN and Good Morning America.  She works for EYP, an architecture and engineering firm.  She is the author of two bestselling books, The Green Workplace and The Healthy Workplace.

Leigh is currently collaborating with Harvard University’s School of Public Health on a new Health and Human Performance Index and the Center for Active Design in New York on their Fitwel building certification program to create new tools, connect like minds and blur the boundaries across industries in order to advance our improve our well-being at work.

Leigh is on the board of directors of a new non-profit, Global Women for Wellbeing, an organization that aims to give women a voice to create better health and wellbeing for themselves, their businesses, and their communities.


Sara Lapanno
With a background in architectural engineering and an emphasis on lighting and electrical design, Sara brings 14 years of experience to Integral Group. As the managing principal of Integral Group’s Washington DC office, Sara is responsible for developing client relationships, pursuing project opportunities, and leading the team of engineers and sustainability experts in her office.  Sara has led teams to complete highly visible projects including the Museum of the Bible, a $400 million, 430,000 square foot building renovation, as well as the Brock Center, which has achieved Living Building Challenge certification. Her design focus is to incorporate sustainability into every project, from daylighting strategies to the design of photovoltaic systems for on-site power generation.  She was recently recognized in Consulting-Specifying Engineer’s 2016 40 Under 40.


Zena Howard, AIA
Zena Howard, AIA is a Principal, Shareholder, and Managing Director of the North Carolina practice of global architecture and design firm Perkins+Will. She is also a founding member of the firm’s global Diversity + Inclusion Council.

Zena has led many significant and award-winning projects including The International Civil Rights Center & Museum, Greensboro, NC, Durham County Human Services Complex, Durham, NC, several Durham County Public Libraries, Durham, NC, and the District of Columbia Anacostia and Tenley-Friendship Libraries, Washington DC.  Most notably, Zena is the Senior Project Manager for the Smithsonian Institution’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture that opened in 2016 on the Mall in Washington DC. As project leader, she is the point person executing the Smithsonian’s multiple decades of planning and investment in this landmark museum.  Zena is also the Senior Project Manager for the much anticipated expansion of the Motown Museum in Detroit, MI.  This project commemorates the history and continuing legacy of Berry Gordy and the Motown artists and sound.  In her home state of North Carolina, Zena is leading the Perkins+Will team in the design of the New Brooklyn Village in the heart of uptown Charlotte.  This 17-acre project is one of the largest and most culturally-significant community development initiatives in the country; reimagining the razed Brooklyn neighborhood and celebrating its original, rich history.

Zena has over 20 years of experience as an architect and project leader with a career focused on private and public institutions, museum and cultural facilities, libraries, and higher education facilities. More specifically, her experience includes diverse buildings and clients with specialized and/or unique design goals such as environmentally sensitive artifact exhibit areas, historically and culturally significant buildings and locations, and sustainable design in pursuit of LEED® certification and other high performance building goals.

Zena is a native of North Carolina and earned her undergraduate degree in Architecture from the University of Virginia in 1988.  Prior to returning to North Carolina in 2003, she worked with firms in Richmond, Virginia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Zena currently serves on the North Carolina State University School of Architecture Advisory Board and the University of Virginia Alumni Association Board of Managers.  She has lectured at multiple institutions including MIT, Howard University, Mississippi State University, Louisiana Tech University, and Tuskegee University.  She has served on the North Carolina State Capitol Foundation Board and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. public service sorority.  Zena is a LEED Accredited Design Professional and a member of the American Institute of Architects, the National Organization of Minority Architects, and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.


Juliet Chun
Co-Founder of the Girl UNinterrupted project, with a B.S. and M.Arch from Northeastern University, Juliet joined Leers Weinzapfel Associates in 2008 and has worked on a diversity of projects such as Ohio State University East Regional Chilled Water Plant and the UMass Design Building. She has taught at the Boston Architectural College as a studio instructor and thesis advisor, and has been a guest critic for various institutions including Wentworth Institute of Technology, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and Pratt University. When she’s not at work, Juliet enjoys cooking and eating her way through Boston with her husband and young son.


Zhanina Boyadzhieva
Co-Founder of the Girl UNinterrupted project, originally from Bulgaria, Zhanina received her MArch from Harvard GSD (2014) and a BA from Mount Holyoke College (2010). She joined Leers Weinzapfel Associates in 2014 and has worked on Condorcet Campus Competition (Paris), UMASS Design Building and currently Harvard Allston Energy Facility Plant. Zhanina is an active member of WID and CultureNOW (Boston-NY-LA). She has taught at Boston Architectural College and has been a guest critic at Harvard GSD, Northeastern, Wentworth, Mount Holyoke College and Kuwait University. Zhanina is an avid world traveler and an occasional writer with work published at TEDx Bulgaria, Metropolis, Oculus, Dnevnik, Ureport and SciencexArt.


As a Fairfax, Virginia native, Tezrah learned to play classical piano at age five, which laid the foundation for her future investigation into computer music programs. Before pursuing a professional career in the music industry, Tezrah graduated with a pre-medical degree in Neuroscience from William & Mary, attended the Harvard School of Design Summer Program, and was accepted into the Graduate Architecture Program at Catholic University. She also played semi-pro soccer before her full immersion into the DJ profession.

Today, Tezrah reigns in her fourth year of DJing in the Washington DC area, specializing in Top 40, electronic dance music, Hip Hop, and other genres. Formerly known as DJ Deedub, she is hailed as one of DC's and the LGBTQ community's brightest stars. Her sound is eclectic, combining the newest music seamlessly with older classic songs. Winner of the DJ Battle for Her HRC for 2014 and 2015, headliner at the 9:30 Club, and headliner for a crowd of 5,000+ at Hampton Roads Pride 2016, she has garnered a solid following from all over DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

Other projects of Tezrah's include working on an original EP album and event planning as the founder of WhiskHER DC.

AIA Women's Leadership Summit 2017 Emerging Professionals Outreach Committee:

Yiselle Santos Rivera
HKS, Inc.


Morina Paterson
Assoc. NOMA
Waldon Studios


Bridgette Thomas
HKS, Inc.


Paloma del Mar Riego
Clear Real Estate Services


Lida Lewis
HKS, Inc.


Rebeca Soja
HKS Inc.


Sponsored by:

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Special Thanks to Denizens!

Denizens Brewing Co. is a brewery, tap room, restaurant, and beer garden in the heart of downtown Silver Spring, MD. Since opening their doors in 2014 they are known for making true-to-style traditional ales and lagers, as well as having a robust barrel-aged and mixed fermentation program. Denizens is a place where folks from all walks of life come together and are unified by beer.