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November 11, 2019 / Member News

CivicLAB 2021

Cover Photo: Fra Carnavale, The Ideal City, 1480-1484, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

About CivicLAB

Gain the skills to be a citizen architect.

Architects are advocates for the built environment. CivicLAB is an opportunity to learn from experts about the local, state and federal issues that directly affect architects and develop the skills to be an effective advocate. Learn how to use your skills as an architect to take on leadership roles in your community, in your professional life, and in academia.

CivicLAB introduces architects, designers, and allied professionals to opportunities for civic engagement across the full spectrum of their careers. We invite emerging leaders to expand their role in critical issues facing our communities and the profession and to communicate and demonstrate the role of architecture in civic life.

During monthly sessions, participants learn the tools of engagement from proven leaders who have guided communities to achieve advocacy results at local and national levels.  Group activities, assignments, and direct advocacy opportunities will illustrate how we can make a positive change within our communities.

CivicLAB in Washington

CivicLAB participants and graduates attend AIA Grassroots in Washington DC to meet with State representatives.

Time Commitment

Four monthly sessions will be held virtually on weekday evenings, each from 5:30 – 6:30 pm. Applicants are expected to attend all sessions. Additional outside preparation may be required for some sessions.

Participants will also be encouraged to participate in AIA Grassroots Leadership Virtual Summit or Advocacy Day in conjunction with AIA Maryland and Preservation Maryland. More details to come.


February 3, 2021. CivicLAB Session 1: Legislative Advocacy and Citizen Lobbying
1.0 AIA LU Electives

March 3, 2021. CivicLAB Session 2: Leadership in Community-Based Design

March 25, 2021. CivicLAB Session 3: Architects Advocate for a Resilient City

April 22, 2021. CivicLAB Session 4:  A Blueprint for Local Activism

Selection Process

While tailored to AIA Emerging Professionals (Associate AIA or AIA members within their first 10 years of licensure) participation in CivicLAB is open to all design professionals and limited to a maximum of 20 participants. Participants will be selected on the basis of a nomination and statement of interest. Criteria for acceptance to the program will include expressed interest in becoming involved in community advocacy or prior involvement in community organizations. Each participant should be sponsored by their employer, as evidenced by a nomination statement; however, scholarships will be available for members who are currently unemployed or in graduate-level programs. Applicants may self-nominate.

Tuition and Funding

Tuition is $100 for AIA Members/$150 for Non-Members and covers administrative fees and meeting expenses. Scholarships are available to participants for whom funding is a challenge. Tuition is due after applicants are selected for the program and prior to the first session in February.

How to Apply

Step 1: Complete the application

Step 2: Have your firm principal, employer, or another reference fill out the Nomination Form. Self-employed or unemployed applicants may self-nominate. Nomination forms must be received by January 29.

Step 3: Pay the application fee by sending a check to:

AIA Baltimore
The Center for Architecture and Design
One Charles Center
100 N. Charles Street
Suite P-101
Baltimore, MD 21201

Tuition is $100 for AIA Members/$150 for Non-Members. Payment can also be made over the phone by calling Zevi Thomas at 410.625.2585 x104.


Completed applications and nominations are due by Friday, January 29, 2021.

Further Information

If you have questions, please contact Zevi Thomas at or 410.625.2585 x104

CivicLAB Spotlights on Advocacy

martina headshotName: Martina D. Reilly, AIA LEED AP BD+C 
CivicLAB Class: 2012
Alma Mater: University of Maryland, College Park
Bowie, Maryland

Why was it important for you to take part in CivicLAB?

I have always been passionate about social justice and how architecture can positively influence social sustainability. I was encouraged to participate in the program by a principal at my firm to learn more about how architects can make a difference in their communities through the built environment.  I saw it as a great networking opportunity where I can hone my leadership skills and learn more about the intersection of architecture in politics, policy, and people.


Laura headshotName: Laura  Wheaton, AIA
CivicLAB Class:
Alma Mater:
Virginia Tech
Columbus, Ohio

Why was it important for you to take part in CivicLAB?

I was new to Baltimore at the time and CivicLAB helped me integrate more quickly into the local design community. I gained a more thorough understanding of the current advocacy issues and design conversations in our profession through presentations by Chris Parts and Klaus Philipsen, and met several like-minded fellow architects both in my year and when I’ve come back since to present.  


Trey headshot

Name: Tilghman ‘Trey’ Shamer III, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
CivicLAB Class: 
Alma Mater: Virginia Tech
Manchester, MD

Why was it important for you to take part in CivicLAB?

I’ve always thought it was important that, as professionals who help to shape our environments, we use our particular talents and experience to improve the lives and communities we touch. It was also a great opportunity for networking, and to better understand the intersection of the public, the design community, and the government.


camessia headshotName: Camessia Johnson, Assoc. AIA
CivicLAB Class: 
2014, 2015
Alma Mater: 
Morgan State University
Fort Washington, MD

Why was it important for you to take part in CivicLAB?

I have always believed that the built environment can be used as a medium for change and inspiration. As a young designer seeking professional growth, I saw participating in CivicLAB as a great networking opportunity. Furthermore, as a graduate of Morgan State University, I am dedicated to sharing my time and talents to promote diversity and inclusion in the fields of architecture, design, real estate, and construction. Morgan’s design curriculum is deeply rooted in community-based research and project development. During my time there, I learned to be a steward of the neighborhoods and context in which I live, work, and design.


matthew headshot

Name: Matthew Fitzsimmons, AIA
CivicLAB Class: 
Alma Mater: 
University of Maryland, College Park 
Baltimore, MD

Why was it important for you to take part in CivicLAB?

The program was a great networking and educational tool for civic-minded designers. I enjoyed learning alongside other advocates to explore ideas and share experiences. The program expanded my understanding of AIA’s advocacy role at the state and national level.


Jimmy LeonardName: Jimmy Leonard, Assoc. AIA
CivicLAB Class: 2016
Alma Mater: North Carolina State University & UNC Greensboro
Hometown: Greensboro, North Carolina

Why was it important for you to take part in CivicLAB?

While in school, I had the opportunity to work on various projects centered on engaging with people involved in public transportation, affordable housing, and the design/build of a park pavilion. I discovered the passion I had not only for the type of projects I was working on but the process of engaging community stakeholders. After moving to Baltimore in the spring of 2014 and working for a few months at Design Collective, Inc, I began volunteering with the Neighborhood Design Center. After a while, I hit a point mentally where I wanted to learn more about big picture issues, frameworks, and policies affecting my efforts at work and as a volunteer. Given my “new in town” status, I believed CivicLAB was a good place to start. I was excited to meet other folks that might share similar passions, were asking the same internal questions and having similar experiences. Part of being a leader and a problem solver is knowing how to figure out the best way to make the pieces fit together. At the time, I felt like I needed to learn what the pieces were in Baltimore. While I’m still learning about the pieces, I feel like CivicLAB was a jumping off point for me.


Name: Anthony Gill, AIA 
CivicLAB Class:
Alma Mater:
Pennsylvania State University
Frederick, MD

Why was it important for you to take part in CivicLAB?

I wanted to learn from the first-hand experience gained by active participants in the AIA Knowledge Communities and individuals working in the nonprofit sector to understand what outreach programs exist in the Baltimore region.