Five Questions with Culin Thompson: ACE Mentorship Program

Community service and mentorship are two key aspects of BRR’s culture. Our team works with organizations across the country to teach and mentor students who dream of a career in the Architecture, Engineering & Construction (AEC) industry. A few of our offices participate in the ACE Mentorship program and, most recently, Culin Thompson spent several months working with Seattle ACE Mentorship. Read on as he shares more about his experience and what compelled him to get involved in this edition of ‘Five Questions With.’

+ How did you hear about Seattle ACE Mentorship?
I first heard about the ACE Mentorship program through friends involved with the Chicago ACE Mentorship program. They shared experiences of guiding students through what working in STEAM fields were like, and how valuable it was to see the excitement of students learning about buildings and construction. AIA Seattle reached out with the opportunity to become involved with the Seattle ACE Mentorship program, and I knew I could not miss the opportunity. Being stuck in our homes over the past year, I knew how critical it was to give back to my community and help mentor students in new and exciting fields and opportunities; and to give students the opportunity to be excited about exploring a new career path.

+ What made you get involved/how long have you been involved?
When I was in high school, I was lucky enough to be able to enroll in an architecture course and explore architecture as a future career. I know that many students do not have this opportunity, and the ACE Mentorship program provided the perfect path to introduce STEAM careers to students whose schools don’t offer the same opportunities as mine did – or those who simply wanted to dive deeper and challenge themselves to explore architecture further before college. One pillar of BRR’s culture has always been community service and giving back; the ACE program provided an opportunity to become involved and increase the inclusion and diversity of our profession. This was my first year participating in the ACE Mentorship program, and I am excited for the years to come!

+ Tell us a bit about this specific program.
This year we had more than 160 students on 11 teams across the Puget Sound region participate in the virtual Seattle ACE Mentorship Program. The students remotely learned about architecture, construction and engineering by developing a case study project for a new STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics) classroom at the Seattle Center Complex. The program asked the students to design a building featuring lab spaces, computer labs, community spaces, meeting rooms and MEP systems all while standing alongside icons such as the Space Needle and Pacific Science Center. The students worked with discipline-specific mentors in roles serving as project architects, mechanical engineers, contractors, etc., to collaborate and devise a comprehensive proposal addressing a Request for Proposal (RFP). Meeting over the course of 20 weeks, the program culminated in a final presentation where mentors, colleagues, friends and families were able to watch the students present their design solution to a panel of industry judges. See images from my team’s presentation below.

+ What was your favorite part about this mentorship?
Seeing the excitement and energy the students brought to the design process was such a rewarding experience. We started off our program by breaking down what architecture is, and moved into evaluation of precedent studies, program diagramming, building design and consultant coordination to give the students a full immersion into architecture as a profession. Every time we dove deeper into what the building could be and how they could craft the final product, the project become more of their shared visions and experiences. My favorite part of the program was seeing their vision for the building come to life for the final presentation and helping them shape what is possible through design.

+ Why should others get involved?
It is our responsibility as architects to contribute toward the continued growth of our profession. This can be through mentorship, increased diversity and inclusion, or shared knowledge and experience. The ACE program offers the perfect avenue to help bring up the next generation of architects and give them opportunities to experience architecture earlier than most students. With ACE affiliates across the country, it is easy to get involved and help bring new architects into our fields.

About the author:

Culin Thompson, AIA, LEED Green Assoc., is a Project Manager in our Seattle office. Culin’s experience in hospitality, grocery, housing and retail market analysis, and urban planning brings a unique perspective to our team. Day to day, he designs for a range of hotel brands and clients assisting in navigating the entitlement process and guiding successful project teams. Email him.