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Where Are They Now: A Look Back at 19 Years of Gensler Scholarship Recipients

The Gensler Scholarship Program prepares the best emerging design talent for the challenges and opportunities they’ll face upon entering the profession. It provides financial scholarships, mentoring and internship opportunities to qualified recipients. Image © Gensler

At Gensler, we applaud the talent behind visionary design work that enhances the places where we live, work, and play. Our world is increasingly design-centric and requires a more sophisticated understanding of how design shapes everyday experiences. For this reason, we strive to recognize the best emerging talent in design and architecture and to collaborate with the academic institutions responsible for nurturing their growth and development.

Our desire to recognize and aid emerging design talent is why we established the Gensler Scholarship Program 19 years ago. Through a combination of financial scholarships, mentoring and internship opportunities, the program supports exceptional students who have the potential to become great and consequential designers. It provides them with the opportunity to hone critical skills while working as part of a professional design team.

“Our scholarship programs allow us to provide mentorship and experience to the next generation of designers,” says Robin Klehr Avia, regional managing principal for Gensler’s Northeast and Latin America regions. “We’re investing in the very best emerging talent, but at the same time, we’re investing in our firm’s future.”

Over the years, we’ve awarded scholarships to an incredibly diverse array of emerging design talent, and our relationships with these individuals have exposed us and our clients to a multiplicity of ideas and boundless streams of creative energy. We consider ourselves truly fortunate to have worked with so many talented design students through our scholarship program, and we look forward to continuing to provide emerging design talent with a glimpse of the possibilities our profession can offer.

Barbara Bouza, the co-managing director of Gensler’s Los Angeles office and a leader of the firm’s Health & Wellness practice area, is instrumental in championing the scholarship program and sees the value for the future of our industry. “I really feel like the next generation of designers gives [Gensler] a pulse on the future and connects us to a diverse array of academic institutions allowing us to broaden our connection with talent,” says Bouza. “At the end of the day, this program helps young designers to define and articulate what it is they’re passionate about, while bringing their own personal filters to impact people’s lives and the community through design.”

Now in our 19th year, we want to take a moment to pause, step back and reflect on how this program has impacted past scholarship recipients. To do this, the Gensler Scholarships team sat down with two previous scholarship winners to discuss their career paths, their passions and the impact the Gensler Scholarship program had on their careers.

About Gensler Scholarship Programs: The Brinkmann Scholarship was established to honor Don Brinkmann, a principal and design director at Gensler, after his passing in 1998. Pictured above is 2011 recipient Meghann Duran, who has been with Gensler for six years in the Phoenix office. Image © Gensler

Meghann Duran attended Arizona State University, where she studied interior design. She was named a finalist for the Brinkmann Scholarship in 2011, which brought her to Gensler’s Baltimore office, where she completed her summer internship. Upon graduation, Meghann received an offer to work in Gensler’s Phoenix office where she has been for the past six years.

Meghann specializes in a variety of practices, including space planning, 3D visualization & modeling, and technical documentation, working on projects like the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas, and the renovation of CBRE in Phoenix.

Editorial Team (ET): Talk about your experience applying for the Brinkmann Scholarship.

Meghann Duran (MD: The scholarship submission in itself was an exercise in how to really tell a story when you may not have that face-to-face opportunity; getting the design tell a story.

ET: Can you describe what your first impression of Gensler was like, starting in the Baltimore office?

MD: When you hear about Gensler, you think about how large we are. But once you work here, you realize it’s a very intimate environment that just happens to have all the resources of a global firm.

My internship in the Baltimore office helped ease me into the firm and made the size and scope of Gensler’s reach feel manageable. It’s a small office, and we always had family barbecues where everyone got to hang out and outings where you really connected with your colleagues on a personal level. That personal level helped me thrive at the professional level.

ET: How did you make your mark on Gensler as an intern?

MD: I was paired with a senior designer—I think it is so essential and critical to have a mentor as you start your career, someone who has patience, time and energy, who really cares about connecting with you and sharing their skillsets.

I was quick to ask for certain experiences and [my mentor] was quick to deliver opportunities.

ET: How does Don Brinkmann’s legacy live on at Gensler?

MD: I feel like [Don’s] story and his design vision and leadership is something the firm celebrates and it’s part of our culture. You know, this “One Firm-Firm” mentality—how the 5,200-person ecosystem of the firm works together across expertise and geography—this sense of design with a purpose, this sense that design is really shaping the human experience. That’s something that’s also at my core.

ET: How did your relationship with Gensler continue after you completed your internship?

MD: There were four ASU students interning at Gensler at the same time throughout the country and Beth Harmon-Vaughan— the managing director of the Phoenix office, who was a frequent guest lecturer at ASU—gathered us up and stayed in contact. She said, “If you want a full-time position in Phoenix, please reach out. Let us know.” The Baltimore office was very instrumental in making sure we had someone to talk to here in Phoenix.

The firm cares deeply about keeping you connected and fosters that network and relationship with interns. They’re investing in you, they’re investing in us. They really want to see you blossom and be an asset to the firm in your future.

ET: Any advice for interns or students?

MD: Be that squeaky wheel and raise your hand—ask for opportunities. Now being in a developing designer role, I realize this more than ever—yes, managers are busy, but we can’t read your minds, so be vocal about what you want. Designers are happy to include junior staff on things and take the extra time to explain, but you’ve got to get out there, get your feet wet, and jump in.

All in all, go for that big office, go for that European experience or Asian experience. Just get out there.

The Diversity Scholarship recognizes emerging underrepresented and minority college students enrolled in an accredited architecture program. Pictured above is 2015 recipient Chereth Hines-Channer, who now works as a job captain in our New York office’s Consumer Goods practice. Image © Gensler

Chereth Hines-Channer received a Master of Architecture from Rhode Island School of Design. Chereth was named the winner of the Diversity Scholarship in 2015, and in addition to a financial scholarship, she had an opportunity to complete a summer internship in the Gensler New York office. During this internship she realized her true passion for design. Upon graduating from RISD in 2016, Chereth returned to the New York office to work full-time, where she eventually joined the same studio she interned with.

Now as a job captain, Chereth is most passionate about the architectural experience from the inside out, i.e., how a person inhabits and experiences a space. She specializes in workplace design and strives to imbue her work with the elements people need to live and perform comfortably.

Editorial Team (ET): What did you take back to school with you after your internship experience?

Chereth Hines-Channer (CH): I felt like I grew so much. When I returned to school, it made sense to me what I wanted to do. My designs started coming to me more naturally. In school, everything is a bit more subjective because there isn’t an actual client you are working for, but after my internship, it became a little bit clearer the path of design I had to take. I started to think as both the architect and the client—I would try to answer my own questions using my design.

I wanted to design in a more practical way, since after having my internship I had a better understanding of the industry’s needs. I worked on a more realistic thesis as opposed to a more conceptual one, since I wanted to research and design something that could actually be built.

ET: What makes Gensler so unique?

CH: I kind of knew when I interned here, in the first few days, that Gensler was an amazing place for me to learn. The opportunities that you are given, the variety in projects, and studios and people—you can learn a lot every day and that’s what I wanted.

This is a great place as a young professional to learn. There is a lot of mentorship and people that are here to support you, which is something that you need when starting your career. You need people to learn from and help get you to where you want to go.

Everybody supports each other and everybody has each other’s backs. That’s how you feel starting and working on a project, you know you’re not alone in anything. There are people here that are going to help you and there’s always somebody that will have the answers to your questions.

ET: What drives you in your work?

CH: Coming from a different country (Costa Rica) has certainly given me a different perspective than a lot of my colleagues, and I’ve found that being exposed to the ideas and processes of different people from different cultures has enhanced my growth as a designer. Diversity is one of the hallmarks of Gensler’s culture, and working here has given me the opportunity to go through the design process with many different people. This variety of perspectives and personalities makes you consider things you otherwise would never have thought of and really enriches the finished work.

I’m always trying to strike a balance between staying true to my roots and being exposed to different things, people, and ideas. I always try to bring my unique perspective to the table, and I think doing so is very important because that’s what makes you stand out. You should never forget where you came from, but you should also know where you’re going. Blending those two can create a lot of opportunities.

ET: How does working in New York shape your design approach?

CH: Living in New York City opens your eyes to architecture because you walk it every day. The things you are drawing on your computer are the same things you see outside—you get to walk it and experience it every day. I find this is the best way to learn.

Interested in Applying for a Gensler Scholarships?

For application deadlines and details, please visit www.gensler.com/scholarships.

The Brinkmann Scholarship

In recognition of creative rigor, eligible interior design talent are welcomed to apply for the Brinkmann Scholarship, a memoriam scholarship to Don Brinkmann, an inspirational and gifted interior designer.

As a Gensler principal and design director, Don worked with clients around the globe to create places of distinction and value. Upon his passing in 1998, Gensler established the Brinkmann Scholarship Fund to continue Don’s career-long commitment to nurturing new design talent.

Gensler Diversity Scholarship

Established to support and celebrate a diversity in talent, the Gensler Diversity Scholarship recognizes design excellence amongst underrepresented and minority students of architecture.

Sam Coats's passions revolve around the intersection between education and people. He delights in seeing personal growth and development in others through lifelong learning. These drivers have informed his career in various roles as architectural designer, non-profit program manager, and talent development advocate. He is the Emerging Talent Manager in Gensler's Global Talent Studio and an AIA Associate. Contact him at sam_coats@gensler.com.