2017 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.
The career of Je’Nen Chastain, Assoc. AIA, has been marked by her drive for service and a passion for helping others. Her verve for collaboration with design professionals across the country has led to her recognition as a thought leader and advocate.
A designer with San Francisco’s Heller Manus Architects, Chastain will complete her graduate work this spring, earning her MBA from the Mills College Lorry I. Lokey School of Business and Public Policy with a concentration in social entrepreneurship. She has worked to create thoughtful solutions for projects small and large, with a focus on the intersection of design and business practice. It is in this concentration that Chastain has deeply researched and implemented strategies that urge design professionals to act as stewards in their communities. An aspiring business leader, Chastain has supported an array of organizations through her work. By merging her training in design thinking and management, she’s provided marketing, branding, and strategic planning for business owners and nonprofits.
Chastain was the 2016 chair of the AIA Center for Civic Leadership, where she has volunteered for the past six years. Her guidance helped launch a reimagined national leadership program for the AIA and leveraged digital learning experiences to advance the discussion of leadership training and its impact on architects’ career development. A number of AIA components have participated in the program, which has enjoyed collaborative support from the College of Fellows, Young Architects Forum, and the Small Firm Exchange. As a result of her outstanding leadership efforts, she was honored as a Richard Upjohn Fellow of the AIA and a recipient of the AIA California Council Associates Award.
Serving as the American Institute of Architecture Students’ first female president in a decade further reinforced her awareness of the challenges women face in architecture. In 2013 she became involved with The Missing 32% project and attended its first symposium in San Francisco. Chastain has subsequently been an invited speaker at the project’s monthly meetings and 2014 and 2016 symposiums, and is collaborating on a workshop titled “Breaking he Glass Ceiling” for the next iteration. The panel of thought leaders she has assembled for the workshop is actively working on a framework to identify and rewrite the unspoken rules of practicing architecture.
Chastain is a strong model for all current and future associate members. Her abilities as a leader are unparalleled, and her passion and focus on leadership and emerging professionals has made a lasting impact of the profession.