2018 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.
Envisioning and realizing programming for diverse populations, Melissa R. Daniel, Assoc. AIA, is a tireless advocate for encouraging and empowering women in architecture. By showcasing their expertise and thought leadership, Daniel is paying forward the support she has received while demonstrating that she is one of the AIA’s future leaders.
For nine years, as a senior designer at Washington, D.C.’s Karn Charuhas Chapman & Twohey, Daniel worked on critical projects for federal agencies such as the Department of Defense. Now a staff architect at the District’s WDG Architecture, she is overseeing construction of a 12-story mixed-use building in Arlington, Virginia.
Since 2013, Daniel has ensured that women in architecture have an established platform to tell their stories. To that end, she founded the Women in Architecture Series for the D.C. metro area, developed fluency with social media and web platforms to boost her storytelling and empowerment capabilities, and served as AIA Northern Virginia’s AIA Women’s Leadership Summit executive co-chair. Her Women in Architecture Series, which began in 2013, engaged the membership of a number of local AIA chapters to examine and discuss business, politics, and family life.
“During the first year alone, these events had over 100 participants from all three of our area chapters, including AIA|DC,” wrote Carolyn Sponza, AIA, president of the AIA|DC Board of Directors, in a letter supporting Daniel’s nomination for the AIA Associates Award. “The program is now five years old and has offered stimulating programming (with CEU credit) to hundreds of architects from AIA|DC, AIA Potomac Valley, and AIA Northern Virginia.”
Daniel’s role for the biennial AIA Women’s Leadership Summit saw her oversee both communications and sponsorship. By rallying volunteers to ask their firms to support the summit—and providing them with a brief elevator pitch—she was able to garner more than $27,000 in sponsorship support. Daniel controlled the summit’s social media accounts and boosted participation through strategic content development, including video, that highlights women’s leadership.
“She is a unique visionary because she consistently and successfully executes her ideas, often in the face of sociocultural or ‘political’ adversity,” Kathryn Tyler Prigmore, FAIA, wrote of Daniel. “Regardless, Melissa has made some extraordinary contributions to the Institute, to the profession, and to the lives of many architects and aspiring architects.”
Beyond the profession, Daniel has been a member of the steering committee for She Should Run Frontrunners, a nonprofit that encourages women to run for public office. She has provided direction for the development of the organization’s mission and engagement strategies, and actively recruits new members and potential leaders.
Focused and, most importantly, fearless, Daniel clearly represents the next generation of leadership in architecture and practice. She has influenced the national discussion regarding equitable representation, a trend that is sure to continue as she moves toward licensure and beyond.