2018 Associates Award Recipient

The AIA Associates Award is given to individual Associate AIA members to recognize outstanding leaders and creative thinkers for significant contributions to their communities and the architecture profession.

As a design professional, Yiselle Santos Rivera, Assoc. AIA, combines a deep commitment to creating healthier places for people to inhabit. In every context, she promotes diversity and engages with others as equals, whether they are part of the AIA National leadership or a child at one of the Washington, D.C., schools at which she volunteers.

The child of a dentist and a healthcare services administrator, Rivera was originally drawn to the sciences. When she was accepted into the University of Puerto Rico, she entered as a biology major. After several elective courses in the arts, she enrolled in the university’s School of Architecture/Environmental Design program and was quickly elected vice president of the student council and liaison to the Latin American Collegiate Architecture student organization (CLEA).

After graduate studies at Syracuse University, Rivera moved to Washington, D.C., to begin her career. From 2008 to 2015, she was a senior design professional at HOK, where she worked on a variety of projects in Northern Virginia and in Saudi Arabia. The firm selected Rivera to serve as its Diversity Office Champion, and she assembled a panel of colleagues who met regularly to promote mentorship, diversity, and inclusion in office culture. Currently, Rivera is an associate in HKS Architects, Inc.’s healthcare studio.  

“Year after year, Yiselle continues to excel as a leader within the workplace as well as within the community,” wrote 2017 AIA Young Architect Award recipient Luis Vélez-Alvarez, AIA. “It is impressive the amount of initiatives that Yiselle has been involved with to promote diversity, inclusion, and awareness in the profession.”

In 2013, Rivera co-founded and co-chaired the AIA|DC Latin American Interior Designers, Engineers, and Architects Committee (LA.IDEA). During her tenure, she raised more than $6,500 and implemented programs such as the Maestros de Arquitectura lecture series to showcase the work of Latin American design professionals. Her efforts resulted in her selection for the Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program class of 2015. During her two-year term as Mid-Atlantic regional associate director on the AIA National Associates Committee, she has sat on the committee’s Advocacy Task Force and partnered with its Communications Task Force to help create the WE ARE Campaign.

“Without a passionate leader, there are no followers,” Korey D. White, AIA, 2017 chair of the National Associates Committee, wrote in a letter supporting Rivera’s nomination for the AIA Associates Award. “Yiselle has made her mark on this profession through her ability to be an inclusive leader, focused more on collaborative goals for all, rather than solutions for a few.”

Additional information


Rik Master, FAIA (Chair), USG Corporation, Woodstock, Illinois

Patrick Burke, FAIA, Columbia University, New York City

Lindsey Graff, Assoc. AIA, Ayers Saint Gross Architects, Scottsdale, Arizona

Libby Haslam, AIA, GSBS Architects, Salt Lake City

R. Steven Lewis, FAIA, TRC Energy Services, Detroit

Image credits

Yiselle Santos Rivera - main image

HKS, Inc

Yiselle Santos Rivera - image 1


Yiselle Santos Rivera - image 2

Bob Salas