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Henry Denais

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YP Corner: Interview with Samantha Markham, AIA, NCARB

Ever wonder what members of the Dallas AIA Board of Directors do and how they got there? I recently caught up with Samantha Markham, AIA, Director of Education, to about her architectural journey through volunteerism and her role on the Board.

How did you become interested in architecture?

I didn’t know I wanted to be an architect until after high school. I was considering being a vet and then with the thought of seeing so many sick dogs, I thought, “Noooo, I probably need to find something else.” I started off in business and marketing in college for my first year and then realized I didn’t want to do just that; I wanted to do something where I felt I could make more of an impact on the world through art and creativity. 

My dad was a civil engineer so I got to see his projects and would even work with him with during college so I got a lot of exposure to both engineering and architecture. I was able to sit down with him to talk about how I should continue with my education and at the end of the conversation I had decided that I wanted to be an architect! I switched to Louisiana Tech University shortly after and started architecture school.

What has your architectural journey been from the start your career up unto your position on the board?

Job wise, I worked as a summer intern at SHW Group and returned the next year to work full-time. At about the same time, SHW Group was acquired by Stantec. I knew from talking with my co-workers that Stantec supported being involved in AIA and also the community in general, which I always greatly appreciated. I got involved with AIA Dallas as soon as I rolled out of college. I started our Freedom by Design chapter at Louisiana Tech and was chapter president there for AIAS so I just always loved being involved and I wanted to continue that in the professional world.

After asking around the office what committee I should volunteer in, it was suggested to me to join Architecture Matters and the Women in Architecture network. I chose to start with Architecture Matters. I attribute much of my getting involved and staying involved in Architecture Matters to being asked my opinion in creating different programs and the group wanting ideas from me. Coming out of college, I didn’t think my opinion would matter so much. Six months into that I was asked to be the 2015 Vice Chair - a great opportunity and starting point to gain leadership roles and skills, which can be difficult to gain when you are starting out in an architecture office.

After my involvement with Architecture Matters, I was asked to be the Chair of the Women in Architecture network, which I did for two years. I was also part of the Emerging Leaders program in 2016 and sat on the AIA Dallas Board as the AIA Associate Member at Large. That was my first year of being exposed to the Board and learning how it serves the chapter. This year I have the honor of sitting on the Board as the Director of Education. I truly believe a lot of what I have done with AIA Dallas and also in the ACE Mentor Program has helped catapult my career at an early age. I think young professionals can gain a tremendous amount of respect early on from their coworkers if they get involved in organizations like AIA while still accomplishing their daily job.

What Is your role as the Director of Education and what are the responsibilities in that role?

My aim as a Director is to be the bridge between our Committees and the Board. As a Director, I help serve various committees in AIA Dallas. I focus on the education and expertise committees including Codes & Standards, Disaster Action, Building Enclosure Council, Historic Resources, COTE, and Communities by Design. I try to attend as many of their meetings and events as possible during the month and I check in with Committee Chairs to offer any resources and help that I can. This year, the Board is also offering Committees and Networks the chance to attend a Board Meeting to share their Committee’s endeavors with the Board.

What is the biggest difference between volunteering for a committee and being on the board?

After chairing committees for 4 years I can say that they are really different! The Committee Chairs are the boots on the ground running programs, coordinating the planning of events, and doing monthly meetings. As a Director on the Board, I feel I have a larger view and perspective of the chapter and the opportunity to connect and support multiple committees while also helping with Board initiatives and goals for the year.

What initiatives have been going on with the board this year? What have you been involved with?

This year in working with Richard Miller, FAIA, the AIA Dallas President, we have put together quite a “to-do” list. At the beginning of the year, we collectively came up with a list of goals and initiatives we wanted to accomplish for the chapter to help and support our members. Many Committees and Networks are already accomplishing these goals and initiatives, and as Board Members we are also taking on some of these to try to achieve in 2019.

One of the initiatives that the other two directors and myself are trying to take on is a Chapter-wide mentorship program. Our Young Professionals and Women in Architecture Networks are already doing an amazing job with mentorship, and we want to build upon their efforts to make it chapter-wide program. Serving on the Board, we hope to make meaningful moves that impact the chapter as a whole and can continue to strengthen and support our membership.

Who inspires you?

For me, I tend to be inspired by a lot of different people in different ways. I will say that one person I really admire is Al Hernandez, AIA in our office. He is just so passionate and he makes things happen! He is one of those leaders who both talks the talk and walks the walk. 

I also feel inspired being around all of our incredible students in the ACE Mentorship program each year! When I am preparing for the program I tend to start thinking about time commitment and how can I keep spinning all of these plates… But when the first night of the program starts I am quickly reminded of how amazing these students are and I get to hear their stories and see how much some of these students had to go through to get to where they are today! They are just incredible – they inspire me every week!