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AIA Shadow an Architect Program


The Shadow an Architect Program is an initiative of the AIA Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Its purpose is to introduce students from traditionally underrepresented groups to the profession of architecture.

Typically a one-day event, the Shadow an Architect Program features fun, interactive design activities, and sometimes includes a tour of an architecturally significant building or an exhibit floor. Students and volunteer mentors are placed into small groups to allow for easy discussion; and students are encouraged to ask their volunteer mentors whatever questions they may have about studying and practicing architecture.

The Shadow an Architect Program has been duplicated at the annual conference of the National Organization of Minority Architects. And we encourage our members to host a Program at their firms, components, and within their communities.

Continue reading for more information on how to host a Shadow an Architect Program.


The “Shadow an Architect” program began at the AIA 2007 National Convention and Design Exposition in San Antonio and was sponsored by the AIA Diversity Committee.

During that first year, fifty-five high school and community college students shadowed architect mentors for a day, attending the General Session and touring the Expo floor.

The Shadow an Architect Program was expanded to include the Grassroots conference as well as convention, and has since become an annual event sponsored by the Board Diversity Council.




10 Steps to a Successful Shadow an Architect Program

    1. Select a day, time, and location for your Program.

    2. Set your agenda. Will the day begin with breakfast? Will there be a guest speaker? What activities will you include?

    3. Set your budget. Will you offer meals or provide transportation?

    4. Determine the age/grade and number of student participants, and how many mentors you’ll need (we recommend 2 mentors for every 4-5 students)

    5. Contact schools and/or community groups (National Urban League, Girl Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Clubs, etc.) for participants.

    6. Sign up volunteer mentors (Architect and Associate AIA members, NOMA and NOMAS members, etc.).

    7. Compile Shadow an Architect Program materials.

    8. Send confirmations to participants and volunteers.

    9. Host your Shadow an Architect Program and have fun!

    10. Tell us how it went! Add your comments to our Diversity and Inclusion Facebook Page and upload photos from your event.


Build a Marshmallow Tower

Design Your Own School!

Redesign Your School!

Design a Bake Shop (great with Girl Scouts)

Redesign the Capitol Visitors Center

Design Your Dream Home

Click here for a PDF document of these activity ideas!


2013 AIA National Convention and Design Exhibition

High school students from the Denver chapter of the Boys and Girls Club, as well as the Denver ACE chapter, participated in the annual Shadow an Architect Program on Saturday, 22. Students and their volunteer mentors started the day with a design activity – Design Your Own School – before touring the Expo floor.

Kenneth Martin, AIA, NOMAC, a former member of the AIA Diversity Council, returned for another year as host of this Program. Guest speakers during the day included Kathy Dixon, 2013 President of the National Organization of Minority Architects, and Jennifer Taylor, 2013-2014 Vice President of the American Institute of Architecture Students.

Thank you to our volunteers who dedicated most of their Saturday to these students and this event!

2013 AIA Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosted the Shadow an Architect Program on Thursday, March 21st, as part of the 2013 AIA Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference in Washington, DC. Students from the TransTech Academy at Cardozo High School Washington, DC, met their local volunteer mentors at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill.

Ron Kessler, AIA, of DC-based woman-owned and minority-owned firm McKissack and McKissack, led an engaging “Introduction to Architecture” presentation with 3 additional representatives from the firm.

Helene Dreiling, FAIA, First Vice President and 2014 President, greeted the students over lunch.

The highlight of the day, a sketching exercise, brought out the creativity of the students. Not only did they sketch a skyscraper, many selected a location for the building, the building’s purpose, and even building materials.

The students left with a new-found appreciation for architecture and what architects can do for communities and society at large.

Thank you to our volunteers who made our March 21st event a success!


Made me appreciate profession more and inspired me to continue.

This is important in our generation, it’s amazing that students are being exposed to this one on one time with architects.

I feel like I’ve been introduced to the more substantial aspects of architecture, and this allows me to feel more connected to it – this has added a realistic spin to the theoretical design I’m used to.

My favorite part was breaking up into groups and really getting to know the architects.

I was never really sure that I would fit in with architects – feel that I belong by meeting them reassured me that I do.

The Shadow an Architect Program is great. It’s inspired me and I think it would inspire many more.

My favorite part was dividing into groups and walking around with the architects. It was nice to walk around and talk with them on a personal level without being intimidated.

Gaining new perspectives from experienced architects only further encouraged me to continue down this career path.

I truly believe this to be a great way to have high school students interact with architects and professionals.




National Building Museum

Shadow an Architect Guide

Becoming an Architect,” by Lee Waldrep


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