Retaining Wall.

People Matter: Ashley Clark

A professional colleague once summed up Ashley Clark this way. “Cat herder. Smart as a whip. Cool as the other side of the pillow.”

 

Unlike some, Ashley had no idea what she wanted to be when she grew up. “I had way too many interests! I loved art, but also math. I liked to make things and appreciated quality materials.”

 

During high school, she considered communications, design and business programs until her calculus teacher and mentor recommended architecture school. “At the time, I had no idea what a gift it was for someone to understand that an education in architecture could expose me to all of these things.”

 

I struggled to understand the studio culture. We were supposed to be learning how to design places for the community, but there was a lack of interest in engaging the community.

 

As a first-year architecture student at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Ashley quickly became frustrated by the culture of students who stayed up all night in the studio, absorbed by their projects. “I struggled to understand the studio culture. We were supposed to be learning how to design places for the community, but there was a lack of interest in engaging the community.”

 

At the same time, the American Institute of Architecture-Students (AIAS) was beginning a movement to advocate for a healthier studio/life balance and working with schools to monitor the health of its culture as part of the accreditation process. It would be Ashley’s first foray into the role of cultural change agent, but not her last.

 

“By graduation from architecture school, it was clear I wanted to pursue a non-traditional career path that would allow me to communicate the value of design.”

 

Ashley’s first job after graduation had her working directly with the leadership of an architecture firm to support client development, presentations and communication efforts. It set the foundation for her career as a marketing professional within the AEC industry.

 

She also continued her leadership growth with the AIA – with a focus on advocacy for non-traditional career architecture graduates – advancing from the Associate Director for AIA North Carolina to the AIA South Atlantic Regional Board, and eventually, the AIA National Executive Committee as the Associate Director.

 

There, she was part of a strategic planning process to change the structure of the national organization to provide better representation for the profession and better services for its 80,000 architect members. Ashley’s role involved advocating for and elevating the collective voice of emerging professionals who represent one-third of the AIA’s membership.

 

Ashley’s advocacy and volunteer leadership did not go unrecognized. In 2012, she became the first architecture graduate to receive UNC Charlotte’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award. She is also a recipient of the AIA National Associates Award, the highest honor given to an Associate member.

 

The opportunity to leverage my collective experiences as an advocate for great design and even better people is extremely satisfying.

 

At LandDesign, Ashley has found a place where she can share her passion within a culture that allows her to contribute. “I am so fortunate to have a position that allows me to sit at the intersection of communications and strategy for the firm.”

 

Ashley manages the firm’s marketing communications, including LandDesign’s 2014 rebrand, and has guided and supports the firm’s strategic vision through both large and small initiatives. She also works on a number of projects that support the firm’s strong culture, a nod to her college roots that prompted her early involvement with the AIA.

 

“The opportunity to leverage my collective experiences as an advocate for great design and even better people is extremely satisfying. And, it just proves that you never know how the opportunities you have to engage the profession will come back and impact your career.”

 

On her bucket list? Completing a home renovation with her husband who is also a non-traditional career architect. “We are fixing up a beautiful old southern home, room by room. It has incredible bones, but we are modernizing it and doing most work ourselves from reconfiguring spaces to running new plumbing and electrical. Between that and our 4-year-old, there’s not much room for other hobbies; though I’ve been trying to make time to get outside and work on my golf game.”

 

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