Emerging Professionals Committee

Celebrating Licensure Sponsor

Friendly Firm Program




The Emerging Professional Friendly Firm initiative is an award-based program aimed at celebrating firms that create nurturing environments and professional development opportunities for emerging professionals. Interested firms submit one application, completed by both a principal / senior leader and an emerging professional employee. The application includes survey questions intended to facilitate a discussion within the firm and provide a catalyst for future conversations between emerging professionals and firm leaders regarding the working environment at the firm. Initiatives, policies and opportunities that the firm offers improve the experience and success of emerging professionals, with potential to increase employee retention rates, firm exposure and talent recruitment. 

The program is open to firms with one or more employees (recognition will not be given to sole practitioners). The program is designed to facilitate recognition to firms of all sizes.

Neighboring Unstaffed Chapters​ - The AIA Houston extends an invitation to our neighboring unstaffed Texas chapters to apply as an EP Friendly Firm. Firms that apply from chapters other than AIA Houston will be evaluated within their own category.

Allied Programs:

AIA Central States
AIA New England
AIA Pennsylvania
AIA Tennessee


Application Materials & Survey

The application consists of a 84 question survey administered through SurveyMonkey.

The survey must be completed in a joint manner between a member of firm leadership and an emerging professional employed by the firm. The submitting team will need to provide their contact information for corroboration by AIA Houston and follow up by the jurors. It is recommended HR professionals do not fill out the survey, though they may be consulted during the process. The SurveyMonkey system does not allow saving surveys in-process, we recommend downloading the list of questions beforehand in order to streamline the submission process. 

There is no fee to apply, only your firm’s dedication to this effort.

You may preview the materials HERE.


Evaluations & Results

Firms will be evaluated by scoring the questionnaire, additional consideration may be provided by the guest jury based on the free-form text box available at the end of the questionnaire. The initial recognition threshold will be determined by the first year’s guest jury and reviewed yearly for adjustment after that. 

Results will be published in an aggregate manner on the AIA Houston website.  It is suggested that results be reviewed by submitting firms in order to identify possible areas of improvement. 
Recognition Categories

Firms that meet the threshold for recognition as an EP Friendly Firm will be recognized at the AIA Houston Annual Celebrate Architecture Gala and on the AIA Houston’s program webpage.

EPIC Firm will be awarded to the highest performing firms. These firms have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to developing their emerging professional staff. ​At juror’s discretion​.





Matt Dumich, FAIA  (SmithGroup Chicago and AIA National Emerging Professionals Task Force)

Matt Dumich, FAIA is a Principal at SmithGroup in Chicago. His professional experience includes commercial buildings, interiors, mixed-use developments and master plans. A dynamic leader and consensus builder, he is known for his collaborative design approach and ability to execute complex, high performance projects, totaling over 10,000,000 SF constructed worldwide.

Matt is a respected leader committed to serving the profession by heightening the visibility of architects, communicating the value of design, and connecting the architectural community. He has held numerous local, regional and national leadership positions with the American Institute of Architects, recently serving as the 2017 AIA Chicago Board President. Matt is co-founder of BRIDGE, a leadership program pairing young architects with FAIA mentors to discuss career advancement and the future of the profession. Since its inception in 2009, Bridge has formed lasting multi-generational mentoring relationships and provided leadership development for more than 175 emerging architects. In 2019 he was appointed by the AIA President to lead the National Emerging Professional Task Force and serves on the Board of Trustees for the Chicago Architecture Center.

Matt was elevated to the AIA College of Fellows in 2017. Additional honors for his leadership and service include Crain's Chicago Business 40 Under 40, AIA National Young Architects Award, AIA Chicago Dubin Family Young Architect Award and Building Design + Construction 40 Under 40 award.


Ricardo de Jesús Maga Rojas, Assoc. AIA (GFF Architects) 

Ricardo de Jesús Maga Rojas, Associate AIA, NOMA is a Senior Project Coordinator at GFF.

He has 4 years of experience in a multitude of project types ranging from higher education, single-family, government, and commercial office serving clients such as Texas A&M University, Intercontinental/Houston Airport, Texas Association of Counties, and SHI International.

Ricardo is passionate about exploring the nexus between architecture and urban planning to understand the politics of space, social issues - race and gender systems, and urban redevelopment.  A few highlights on Ricardo's leadership and service include former AIAS chapter president at Texas A&M University, facilitator and advisory board member to the Hip-Hop Architecture Camp in Austin, chartering Thomas H. Keithley Lodge No. 45, Alabama Assistant District Director for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, and Commissioner on the Hispanic/Latino Quality of Life Commission.

In 2016, Ricardo was first recognized by his professional organizations as an emerging leader in the field of architecture. He fundraised over $4,000 to co-establish The Pay It Forward Scholarship dedicated to alleviating the financial burden of architecture students at his HBCU, Tuskegee University. In 2019, Ricardo was recognized as a finalist for Austin Under 40 and is the recipient of AIA Austin's Associate Member of the Year for his contributions to the Chapter, the profession of architecture, and the community. In his spare time, Ricardo enjoys dancing and singing to Afro-Cuban folkloric music, Franco-Haitian, Rumba, and Salsa Casino! Ricardo received his Bachelor of Architecture from Tuskegee University's Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science in 2013. In 2016, he received his Master of Urban Planning from Texas A&M University.


Kate Thuesen, AIA (DLR Group) 

Kate Thuesen, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP has focused her career on designing diverse educational environments. A decade ago she saw a need for and created a national college recruiting and internship program for her firm, DLR Group, and now directs their Emerging Professional Experience Program. She sees tremendous value in service to the profession and taught Professional Practice at Iowa State University (ISU) and also serves on the Alumni Advisory Committee for the ISU Department of Architecture. She also volunteered as the AIA Central States Young Architect’s Forum Regional Director (YARD) from 2017-2020 which provided her opportunities to engage with Emerging Professionals across local, regional, and national arenas. Her role as the YARD included a leadership role on the CSR Emerging Professional Committee, where she oversaw and grew the EP Friendly Firm Award for the region and developed a national toolkit for the award program.

Early in her career, Kate lived and worked for almost three years in Europe, where she deepened her appreciation for international architecture and design, as well as insight into the importance of embracing diversity and learning to support personal and professional success. Her passion centers on connecting people and elevating the human experience, whether through architecture, teaching, writing, recruiting, travel, service, design, or mentoring.



Aleks Savitski, AIA Staff
Alex Morales, AIA Houston Emerging Professionals Committee Co-Chair, 2020-2021
Greg Benjamin, AIA Houston Emerging Professionals Committee Co-Chair, 2020-2021
Amaya Labrador, AIA Houston Board of Directors


Frequently Asked Questions

“What is an Emerging Professional?”​ - a diverse group of individuals who are recently licensed or moving along various points on the path to licensure. This includes students, recent graduates, candidates on the path of licensure, and architects licensed 10 years or less. 

“Which employees qualify as emerging professionals?”​ - Includes full-time, part-time and current temporary staff such as interns. 

“What types of firms are eligible to participate?”​ - The program is open to firms with one or more employees. Studios located in Houston that are part of larger firms are welcome to apply. 

“What area does this program cover?”​ - The program encompasses the geographic region for AIA Houston. We invite our neighboring unstaffed Texas chapters to apply as an EP Friendly Firm.