Two AIA New Jersey female architects selected for leadership program

Libertad McLellan Harris is the past section director for the AIA West Jersey Emerging Professionals Community and was recently honored with the AIA New Jersey Associate of the Year Award in 2019, as well as being recognized with a Young Architect Conference Award in 2021. Photo courtesy AIA New Jersey

The American Institute of Architects New Jersey (AIANJ) has selected two female architects for its inaugural ‘Next to Lead’ program, designed to support association leadership for ethnically diverse women aspiring to be leaders of the AIA.

AIA has chosen 17 members, two of them being female architects with AIA New Jersey. Libertad McLellan Harris, also known as Lauren, has already established herself as a leader and influencer in AIANJ.  She currently serves as the 2020-2022 regional associate director representing New Jersey’s emerging professionals at the national associates committee, chair of the AIA-NJ women in architecture committee, and the AIA-NJ committee on the environment and trustee for the New Jersey architects’ political action committee.

Harris is the past section director for the AIA West Jersey emerging professionals community and was recently honored with the AIA New Jersey associate of the year award in 2019, as well as being recognized with a young architect conference award in 2021. She was also the creator and moderator of the 2020 AIA NJ african-american architect equity experience webinar series.

Levitta Lawrence-Gathers, associate AIA, is an architectural graduate from the New Jersey institute of technology. While completing her studies, she won a design competition for habitat for humanity for the design of a single-family home that was affordable, sustainable, and innovative. Through this honor, she was featured in the ‘Star Ledger’ and received a paid internship with Inglese architecture and engineering.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Lawrence-Gathers has also contributed to the Precast Concrete Industry (PCI) design studio that inspired the publication of the book, Design for Resilience, which documents student ideas toward more efficient building techniques for coastal towns. She is currently pursuing architectural licensure and is working with NK Studio to explore her passion for developing educational facilities.

‘Next to Lead’ is a two-phase program launched on October 15. Its first phase includes an online curriculum and monthly virtual sessions focusing on association leadership, starting in 2022. In the second phase, participants will then work on a collaborative project developed with a local or state component or a knowledge-based group within the AIA.

‘Next to Lead’ is the first program of its kind to support association leadership for ethnically diverse women who aspire to be leaders of the AIA. Candidates were selected by jurors from AIA’s Equity and the Future of Architecture Committee (EQFA) who conducted a blind review of applications and reference letters.

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