AIA Framework for Design Excellence: Design for Equitable Communities

Featured Speakers

Wanda Dalla Costa, AIA, LEED AP 

Institute Professor, The Design School & Associate Professor, School of Construction | Arizona State University

Wanda Dalla Costa, AIA, LEED AP holds a joint position at Arizona State University's The Design School and School of Construction  (Institute Professor and Associate Professor). She is a member of the Saddle Lake First Nation and has spent nearly 20 years working with Indigenous communities in North America. Dalla Costa teaches an interdisciplinary service learning studio at ASU, where students engage directly with local tribal communities. Her interests include community-driven design, Indigenous methodologies, Indigenous placemaking/placekeeping and the vernacular intelligence of regional architectures. She recently exhibited at 2018 Venice Biennale as part of a group of 18 Indigenous architects (Unceded / Team Canada). She holds a Master of Design Research (City Design) from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and a Master of Architecture from the University of Calgary.


Lynne M. Dearborn, Ph.D., AIA

Professor of Architecture, College of Fine and Applied Arts | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Lynne M. Dearborn, PhD, AIA, is Professor of Architecture, at the  University of Illinois at Champaign, College of Fine and Applied Arts. Her work addresses the intersection of environmental design, policy, and health. Through her research, studio teaching, and service, she seeks to identify and ameliorate inequitable and adverse environmental conditions experienced by marginalized groups. She is the author of numerous publications addressing social justice and equity among minority peoples, engaging physical, social, economic, and political aspects of the environment to address human health and well-being. She leads an interdisciplinary team of faculty and graduate students exploring how designed environments can lead to healthier outcomes for vulnerable populations. She currently serves as the Chair of the Illinois School of Architecture’s Health and Wellbeing Program and has developed a set of courses and studios that expose students to principles of human-centric design and health and well-being research from their freshman year through the school’s professional MARCH and post-professional MS and PhD programs.


Herman Howard, NOMA

Co-founder | Studio H Architecture Planning EnvironmentsSHAPE 


Herman Howard has had the pleasure of designing projects and built works at the scale of Master Planning, Urban Design, Architecture and Interiors for well over 30 years. In late 2015 he co-founded the firm Studio H Architecture Planning Environments SHAPE— with offices being developed in NYC and Atlanta, GA . Prior to forming SHAPE Mr. Howard had the opportunity to be a part of the design teams and leadership of some of the leading firms across the nation and the world. Early in his career he was a part of the design teams with KPF (Kohn Pedersen Fox) and SOM (Skidmore Owings and Merrill). Some of the later positions and projects (after Graduate School) included the firm of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners (formerly known as I. M. Pei). During this time period 1989 –1995, Herman Howard was also involved in the early efforts of the discovery of the African Burial Ground of Lower Manhattan, which later became a National Historic Treasure. It was also during this time that he met Mr. Mark Hill. While at HOK from 2005 – 2011 as a VP & Regional Practice Leader. The last firm that Herman Howard was a part of before starting SHAPE was KAI-Design + Build where he was the Director of Planning + Urban Design and headed up their Atlanta office.

Herman Howard has also had the pleasure of teaching Design studio at the Georgia Tech School of Architecture for 14 years where his studio has won numerous design awards.


James Rojas

Urban planner, community activist, artist, founder | Place It!


James Rojas is an urban planner, community activist, and artist. He has developed an innovative public-engagement and community-visioning method, Place It!, that uses art-making as its medium. Through this method he has engaged thousands of people by facilitating over four hundred workshops and building over fifty interactive models around the world - from the streets of New York and San Francisco, to Mexico, Canada, Europe, and South America. He has collaborated with municipalities, non-profits, community groups, educational institutions, and museums, to engage, educate, and empower the public on transportation, housing, open space, and health issues.

Rojas is also one of the few nationally recognized urban planners to examine U.S. Latino cultural influences on urban design and sustainability. He has written and lectured extensively on how culture and immigration are transforming the American front yard and landscape. He is the founder of the Latino Urban Forum, an advocacy group dedicated to increasing awareness around planning and design issues facing low-income Latinos.

Rojas has lectured and facilitated workshops at MIT, Berkeley, Harvard, Cornell, and numerous other colleges and universities. His installation work has been shown at the Los Museum of Contemporary Art, The Institute of Contemporary Art / Boston, the Venice Biennale, the Exploratorium, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Bronx Museum of Art, and the Getty. His research has appeared in The New York TimesThe Los Angeles TimesDwellPlaces, and in numerous books.


Our gratitude to the following professionals for their subject matter expertise, development support, and resource contributions. 

Phillip Bona, AIA, NCARB, APA, ULI 

Senior Architect & Planner                           

Baucentrum Urban Studio

Kristen Dotson, LEED AP, PMP 

Sustainability Services Director                    

The Miller Hull Partnership

Ben Kallechey


Davis Partnership Architects

Paola Capo

Manager, Sustainability & Communities by Design

The American Institute of Architects

Joel Mills 

Senior Director, Center for Communities by Design

Melissa Morancy, Assoc. AIA 

Director, Sustainable Knowledge & Engagement

Jonathan Tolbert 

Senior Manager, Center for Emerging Professionals

Melissa Wackerle, LEED AP ND

Senior Director, Sustainable Practice & Knowledge

Renée Byng Yancey

Senior Vice President, External Workforce & EDI Strategies