WKMC’s Jennifer Hilliard Wraps Up Term as 2017 AIA-Corpus Christi Chapter President

Jonathan SwindleWKMC News

WKMC architect Jennifer Hilliard has served as president of the Corpus Christi Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) through 2017, and as her term comes to a close, we sat down with her to talk about the AIA, her role with the organization, and how her profession helps create better communities.

Born and raised in South Texas, Hilliard decided she would become an architect by the age of 12, and never wavered. She had a strong interest in art and desired a profession that she could take anywhere in the world. While an undergraduate student at Texas A&M University, she spent a semester studying in Italy. The exchange program fully opened her eyes to how buildings are an illustrated history book, a time capsule of the culture of the people and furthermore how architecture served those in its shadow through the ages.

Hilliard joined WKMC Architects in 2007, and says the firm is organized into studios that specialize in different building types, which allows the teams to become well-versed in the specific needs of clients of a certain industry. “One of the great things about WKMC is the goal of everyone here is to provide a high level of service to the client,” said Hilliard. “They also realize that to have successful clients, you have to live in a community that is healthy and prospering, so of course, you have to start there.”

WKMC supports its employees involvement in the community by encouraging them to serve on community boards, be active in professional organizations and donate time to charity events. She says they have led by example how to lend a hand to shape the community for the better.

Involvement with AIA

Since 1857, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has been a membership organization for both architects and emerging design professionals wishing to connect and work together to advance the profession. With over 250 chapters in the United States, the organization represents approximately 80,000 national members, 6,000 within the State of Texas, and 90 members in the Corpus Christi chapter, which was first incorporated in 1960.

Hilliard first joined the AIA-Corpus Christi chapter in 2009 with a desire to get more involved with the building community and develop professionally.  After being a director for several years, she was invited to sit on the board, which is a five-year commitment. Shae says that each year members advance in office rank until you’re eventually president, and then you serve an additional year as past president. Learning along the way how the Chapter is organized, what are the needs of its members, and what it really means to be on the executive board of this intelligent and focused group of professionals.

Her tenure as president was punctuated by Hurricane Harvey in August, when the AIA national organization came together with the Texas Society of Architects to help both AIA-Corpus Christi and AIA-Houston to coordinate relief efforts that deployed design professionals to perform safety assessments in some of the hardest hit areas. Bridging the gap between design professionals and the community are part of what makes the AIA’s efforts so important.

“Serving on the board of our local chapter has been a challenging and rewarding experience. It has renewed my dedication for what can sometimes be a technically rigid profession and confirmed again my career choice as a twelve year old. It has also been a way to connect with different people and share the passion for architecture and the community,” says Hilliard “As people move about structures and spaces, most are not aware of the thought and creativity that defined their physical presence. The hours of details that consist of an understanding of materials, human behavior and environmental conditions, forge intricate illustration that will become not only place of shelter and comfort but would also reflect the ideas of the time and the culture where it was created.”

Ms. Hilliard possesses a LEED AP BD+C certification and is also a member of the Texas Society of Architects. In addition to AIA, her work with community organizations include the Corpus Christi Road Runners, the South Texas Triathlon Club, My Team Triumph, the R/UDAT Harbor Bridge Relocation Project, the Humane Society of South Texas, and she has served on committees with the Women’s  Shelter, the Texas State Aquarium and the American Diabetes Association.