The American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) is celebrating the 60th anniversary of student excellence in leadership, service, and design. In honor of our 60th year, the AIAS is excited to share 60th: Legacy, an ongoing weekly celebration of and thanks to our alumni sponsored by Professional Publications, Inc (PPI). PPI is a publisher of professional licensing exam materials since 1975 and wants to recognize those who have helped the AIAS achieve 60 years of success.
Stephen Parker, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
A self-described leadership junkie and design advocate, Stephen’s passion is people. Hailing from the coastal South, Stephen’s family instilled a giving attitude and he is a firm believer in “paying it forward”. Having been blessed with great peers and mentors throughout his career, Stephen enjoys mentoring students as a regular studio critic at local schools and empowering emerging professionals. Stephen has sought out a plurality of architectural experiences starting in high school, working with firms large and small, public and private. Those experiences have only expanded at SmithGroupJJR, from education, to sports, to healthcare projects that have a profound impact on people. Having served in leadership roles at the local, state, and national levels with a number of professional organizations, Stephen’s passion manifests itself in the National Design Services Act (NDSA) as co-founder in the AIA National’s new NDSA Coalition. Beyond his role as the Advocacy Director for AIA National’s Young Architects Forum, Stephen strives to promote a national dialogue around an architect’s role in empowering communities while practicing what he preaches by applying his design skills on volunteer-led community projects.
ARE Prep Tip: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting to test?
Having become a licensed architect this past year, a goal I had set for myself when I started apprenticing, I can only advise everyone aspiring to be an architect to do the following: 1) Design your licensure plan 2) Turn off Netflix 3) Onward and upward! Life will only get busier the longer you wait.
How did your experience with AIAS help you to achieve your goals?
Where to begin…well, it helped that I kinda found true love along the way. I met my wife Carrie at a South Quad conference in 2009 and got hitched after Forum in 2013. There’s a super cheesy article in the Dallas Morning News if you want some warm and fuzzy reading. I built lasting friendships and met plenty of mentors along the way, creating opportunities I never considered. Having run for national office, I learned an immense amount about myself in the process. I’ve been blessed with quite a few serendipitous moments, unforeseen opportunities and wonderful people thanks to my experiences with the AIAS.
How can someone best change the world?
Not to be cliche (though I love my cliches), you can easily change the world one person at a time.
How can someone be a better designer?
Be authentic to you and yours. Once you find your thing, your raison d’etre, whatever “it” is, just apply time to your passion, practice often, perfect your process and just be patient. I find it helps to collaborate with others who design selflessly rather than for themselves. A nurturing, constructive culture where everyone strives towards a better design is far better that the negative studio environments I’ve seen others suffer through. If you value yourself and your design skills, you’ll find an environment that will foster that growth and help you develop as a designer.
How have you overcome unforeseen challenges through your career?
It has helped to have great colleagues to work with that are invested in your success and peers outside of work you can trust, especially my wife Carrie. Taking a step back, humbling yourself and getting perspective with what your priorities are, helps me the most.
How do you define work-life balance and how is it achievable?
It’s a constant give and take, much in the same way we strive for a more perfect design. It’s rarely achieved but we iterate often and finding that balance will take commitment, prioritization and setting expectations for yourself as well as those you work with. At the end of the day, we’re all human and we’re all trying to live a more balanced life that satisfies our professional passions and our personal well-being.
If you, or another AIAS alumni you know, deserves recognition for their contribution to the profession and society at large, please use the link below to nominate them for this honor.