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2016 a/e ProNet David W. Lakamp AIA Scholarship

Thank you to our sponsor: a/e ProNet!

This scholarship was initiated in 1990 by a/e ProNet, a group of insurance professionals providing risk management services to architects and engineers. In 1999, the scholarship was renamed for David W. Lakamp. Mr. Lakamp was a founder of a/e ProNet and a trusted advisor to the profession. He left behind a legacy of professionalism and integrity that set new standards in the field of insurance services. In his honor, two students, who best demonstrate strong interest in practice and risk management, will each receive a $5,000 award.


06/01/16   2016 Recipients Announced
03/14/16   2016 Extended Deadline
11/30/15   2016 Application Launched
06/24/15   2015 Recipients Announced

Get notified with the 2017 Application is released by completing this interest form.



Eligible applicants are (on March 1, 2016):
  • Fourth year students in a NAAB accredited degree program, or
  • Fourth year students of a four-year pre-professional degree program in architecture accepted for direct entry to a two-year NAAB accredited M.Arch/D.Arch program, or
  • First year students in a NAAB accredited M.Arch/D.Arch degree program for students with undergraduate degrees in another discipline.

Eligible applicants must have a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 and, if applicable, a cumulative graduate GPA of 3.0.

Eligible applicants must demonstrate an interest/or concentration in practice or risk management.

Submission Requirements

The following materials must be received via electronic form  by March 1, 2016 March 14, 2016.

  1. Completed application including the 300-word case study essay and 200-word biography;
  2. A transcript from each academic institution attended since high school; minimum cumulative GPA: 3.0;
  3. Two letters of recommendation addressed to the Scholarship Jury, one of which is from a department faculty member verifying applicant eligibility. Each recommendation should highlight three areas that articulate an applicant’s advantages or areas of excellence with practice and risk management;
  4. A current resume.

Awards and Selection

Two $5,000 scholarships will be awarded toward the students’ university tuition and fees. The award check will be mailed directly to the university; it may not be deferred for use later or transferred to another individual.

The recipient will be selected by a sub-committee of AIA members serving on the Practice Management Knowledge Community Leadership Group and a representative from the a/e ProNet organization. Applications and supporting material become the property of the American Institute of Architects.

Applicants will be notified April 15, 2016. Results will be announced by June 25, 2016.

2016 Case Study Topic

Your firm has had an exemplary record of claim* free projects for many, many years, until the past 18 months when several claims were filed against you.  These claims are not based on technical errors, but rather on unmet client expectations.  The client expected a different result and feels like the architect should pay for whatever it takes to meet the client’s expectation. 

What would you do to ensure that client expectations are met on each and every project?  What changes would you make, what approaches would you implement as you manage your projects and the firm to eliminate the risk of unmet client expectations?

*Generally a claim is a formal way of beginning to sue for damages.  In this initial step both sides will work to resolve the conflict without going through the expense of a formal law suit.

Write a response, 300 words or less, on how you would manage the preceding practice management situation to a favorable conclusion.

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Questions and inquiries can be directed to

2015 Essay Topic: Recruiting the Next Generation

Our scholarships recipients explain how they would manage the following practice management situation to a favorable conclusion.

In anticipation of a significant increase in their design workload, a group of partners is strategizing an approach to finding qualified architectural staff. During the economic downturn that began in 2007 unemployment reached an all-time high and hiring by architectural firms plummeted. Correspondingly, anyone entering the architectural profession (and the construction industry in general) faced serious challenges finding employment. Firms are now challenged to find and recruit professionals with 3 – 5 years’ experience.

What are the qualities that would make this firm a likely choice for those in the millennial generation? How should the firm present those qualities to best appeal to millennials? What else could the firm do to deliver the increased workload?

Congratulations to our 2015 Scholarship Recipients!

Alyssa Tope, Assoc. AIA
B.S. in Architecture and Sustainability the University of Minnesota
M.Arch Candidate at Virginia Polytechnic Institute

The first key to solving the firm’s recruitment issue is understanding what millennials are looking for in a profession. Millennials have grown up with access to endless amounts of information at their fingertips and are constantly exposed to different cultures and ideas. This over-stimulation leads to millennials having diversified interests and therefore desire a job where they can combine architecture with fields such as sustainability, technology, marketing, and science. Millennials want a career that allows them to make an impact on the world, maintain a work-life balance, and work on projects that are fresh and innovative. It is also important for firms to show a vested interest in helping new hires complete all of the IDP and CE requirements because loyalty to employees will garner loyalty to the firm in return.

Due to the sheer amount of information and options available to millennials, firms need to make themselves stand out amongst the crowd. A quality website is very important in attracting millennials because it is likely the first place they will look for information. It needs to be easily navigable and present as much information as possible in few words. Highlighting the firm’s best projects and emphasizing a willingness to embrace new ideas will inspire recruits to work at the firm by appealing to their passion. Finally, a firm needs to present itself as having a healthy and exciting atmosphere where collaboration is a priority.

In addition to new hires, a firm can increase its production by embracing technology. NCARB has proven the time-saving results of technology with its recent decision to decrease the number of required IDP hours due to increased learning rates made possible by technological advances in the architectural field. Also, minimizing meetings and allowing employees to telecommute would add hours of production time each week.

Alyssa Tope, Assoc. AIA, completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 and decided to work in the field before continuing on to graduate school. Currently, she is working towards licensure at WholeTrees Architecture & Structures. Working at a small (five person) office requires her to wear many hats, which has accelerated her learning about not only design, but also practice management and the business of architecture. She has gained experience in all avenues of business, including accounting, marketing, human resources, grant writing, code research, project management, and product research and development (with the USDA Forest Products Laboratory). She has also learned that many risks in project management can be prevented by having a team that knows how to collaborate and problem solve together by being aware of each other’s weaknesses and strengths. She enjoys working on the edge of what is currently accepted in design because, although it involves more risk, it is also where the greatest potential for change exists. Architecture can improve the triple bottom line – social, economic, and ecological factors of design. She will to continue to commit herself to design principles that advance the field of architecture in graduate school and her future career.

Edward Palka, Assoc. AIA
B.S. in Architecture from the University of Minnesota
M.Arch Candidate at Columbia University

Having lived through the economic downturn of 2008, millennials remaining in the design fields are motivated by creative and intellectual concerns, with money as a secondary concern. Millennials seek stimulating and novel design challenges in collaborative and flexible work environments. The challenge for firms wanting to attract experienced millennials is to communicate their firm’s culture of creativity to these prospective employees.

I would quickly launch a social media initiative focused on the creative culture of the firm; highlighting current work and commenting on and sharing articles relevant to the profession. I would also encourage and incentivize my young staff to use their social media contacts to extend this dialogue and express their own opinions, positioning the firm as a lively and interesting workplace. This would act to extend the reach and awareness of this initiative beyond just the firm.

Most firms aspire to the same creative ideals as millennials but market themselves in traditional ways to clients; not employees. There is a disconnect between how these firms market themselves to prospective clients and what millennials are looking at and interested in. Social media can bridge this gap.

Firms like NBBJ and Sasaki Associates leverage social media like Twitter and Instagram to not only highlight their own designs, but to create dialogue with other designers through articles, blogs, and research which reverberate across the industry. These firms understand how to use social media in a way that excites and interests not only prospective clients but millennial employees. Through their social media buzz, they define themselves as the most interesting and creative places to work. The firm would join this group. A small investment in meaningful social media will act as an accessible medium for publicizing career opportunities while attracting young professionals with appropriate experience as well as optimism, hunger, and idealism.

Edward Palka, Assoc. AIA, recently completed his last semester of the Bachelor of Science in Architecture program at the University of Minnesota and will begin the M.Arch program at Columbia University in the fall of 2015. He has held internships at HGA Architects & Engineers in Minneapolis, MN, Poltronieri Tang & Associates in Swarthmore, PA, the Children’s Inn at NIH in Bethesda, MD., and will be beginning an internship at KieranTimberlake in Philadelphia, PA this May. In these roles, he has had experience working on projects through all phases from pre-design through construction administration. Additionally, he has worked on research initiatives professionally and academically related to BIM integration and education, daylighting strategies, and analysis of spatial configurations of housing developments. Beyond a passion for architecture, though, Edward’s professional experience has brought him an interest in the design of architectural practice itself, including firm structure, marketing, and technology and workflow integration. Edward, currently working through his IDP hours, hopes to become licensed soon after graduating with his M.Arch and looks forward to beginning his career full-time.

2015 Jury Commentary

Thomas G. Coghlan of Design Insurance Agency, Inc. – A Division of INTEGRO, based in New York and a/e ProNet’s Scholarship Chairman offered the following comments on the jury’s deliberations: “Having reviewed each scholarship applicant’s submissions the jury focused on the essays, individual biographies/resumes and letters of recommendation with an eye toward an exhibited focus on practice and risk management. The scholarship winners showed a strong commitment to identifying and implementing best practices in their academic and work experiences. a/e ProNet established the scholarship to recognize and reward students who are committed to improving private practice efforts to mitigate potential liabilities.  The scholarship winners utilized newly emerging technology tools to better document and communicate risks to all stakeholders on the project. The jury found the scholarship winners showed great leadership skills to achieve successful project outcomes.”

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2014 Essay Topic: Recognize and Grow Leaders

One thing that the downturn of the economy has shown the architectural profession is that firms must always keep a focused eye on the future and a game plan for likely scenarios that may arise.  One issue that is often overlooked is firm leadership potential and growth encouragement of employee. You are one of three partners in a design firm of currently 50 employees.  Over the last year, your firm’s project workload  has increased and your firm has grown from 40.  Your backlog of projects is projecting a healthy 2014 and a steady growth in 2015.  However, as you plan for the increased workload and take stock of your firm’s leadership, project managers, project architects and project designers, you realize that during the economic downturn you and your fellow partners had to let go of several project leaders and now the leadership pool is looking slim and may not be sustainable for your projected future workload.  Being proactive, the partners have put you in charge of developing an internal effort to recognize and  grow leaders within the firm in order to address future needs. What type of program would you develop?  How would you identify the potential new leaders and encourage all staff to step up and improve their skill sets to become future practice leaders? In addition, how do you inspire existing firm leaders to encourage and help promising staff gain the necessary skills and confidence to become new leaders?

Congratulations to our 2014 Scholarship Recipients!


Nathan Blair
- graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Utah in 2014.  He will be returning to the U of U in the fall to complete work on a Masters of Architecture with an expected graduation in 2016.  Mr. Blair is currently employed with Epic Engineering located in Heber City, UT.  He has immensely enjoyed his time there helping to grow a newly established architecture department.  Upon completion of the Master’s degree program, it is Mr. Blair's intention to seek fulfillment of IDP credit hours with Epic Engineering.        

Mr. Blair's design interests center around identifying and isolating the spirit of our time with an affinity for communicating these visions through contemporary materials and methods.  Mr. Blair was recently able to implement these ideologies by competing in the CTBUH Student Tall Building Design Competition, receiving positive remarks. He is also looking forward to participating in the University of Utah's DesignBuildBLUFF program.   

During his free time, Mr. Blair will most likely be found fly fishing.  He also enjoys playing tennis, golf, billiards, and getting sushi on the weekends.  Mr. Blair is constantly striving to improve himself personally and professionally, and concludes in his own words, “My name is Nathan Blair.  I'm a lifelong student, an aspiring architect, and I'm a Mormon."

Read Nathan's case study response


Kevin Fletcher - grew up in Miami, FL and will be completing his Bachelors of Science in Architecture at Wentworth Institute of Technology in 2015 with plans of attending graduate school in the fall of 2015.  During his time as an undergraduate student, Fletcher, a Dean’s List Scholar, has remained an active member of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS).

In the summers throughout his college education, Fletcher has gained experience working as an Intern at BC Architects AIA, Inc.  Prior to graduation, he has applied his talents in areas of marketing presentations, conceptual design, design development, and construction documents.  All of which have contributed to his understanding of building systems, codes, and construction methods.  Following graduate school, Fletcher plans on pursuing his NCARB registration along with his LEED accreditation.

Apart from his academic and professional involvement within the field of architecture, Fletcher has spent time developing skills in other areas of graphic design, photography, and videography.  All the while, maintaining an active lifestyle along with a passion for travel.

Read Kevin's case study response

2013 Essay Topic: Boosting Morale

You are the Managing Principal in your firm. In the last few years, due to economic conditions, your firm has cut staff from 60 to 40 employees and reduced raises and bonuses. In the last six to eight months, project work has increased, and the firm’s outlook is starting to improve. This seems to be true for other firms in your area—several of which have started hiring additional staff. In fact, your firm has recently lost six employees to competitors.

Knowing that your current staff has been working very hard, doing more work with smaller project teams, you are concerned about the low morale in the office and the possibility that more staff will leave to join other firms.

What conversations would you have with your staff to help ease concerns about their future in the office? What actions would you take, if any, to boost morale and retain people who may be considering leaving the firm?

Meet the 2013 recipients and read their essays.

2012 Essay Topic: Non-Billable Staff

You are the Managing Principal of a 20-person architecture firm that has been hard hit by the recession. At your firm’s peak it employed 35 people. Even today, as the economy is slowly recovering, your firm’s profitability remains very low, barely above breakeven, due in large part to your wanting to avoid cutting even more staff while the firm still struggles to obtain enough work in a highly competitive marketplace.

Two of your firm’s remaining employees are involved in marketing: a marketing manager who divides her time roughly evenly between outside-the-office networking and business development, generating leads on projects to pursue, and inside-the-office working on proposals and other marketing materials. The other marketing employee is a more junior marketing coordinator who also serves the firm in a more general administrative role.

Your in-house accountant continually points out to you and your two partners that the firm’s overhead is abnormally high due in part to the number of non-billable staff, including the two marketing people (and the accountant) and recommends cutting at least one marketing position. You are conflicted about this, recognizing the financial impact on the firm yet not wanting to further erode the firm’s ability to obtain work.

What conversations would you have with your two partners? How would you advocate resolving the situation?

Meet the 2012 recipients and read their essays.