Leading the Way Renee Fiala: Helping Bring AIA AAH Student Design Charrette to Life

featuring Renee Fiala

August 03, 2022

Leading the Way:

An ongoing series highlighting how our people are influencing and leading within industry and community organizations.

Renee Fiala headshot

This week, EYP, a Page company (Page/EYP), is putting the spotlight on Houston Senior Medical Planner Renee Fiala, AIA, EDAC. Renee’s involvement with the AIA Academy of Architecture for Health (AIA AAH) is just one example of how she is leading the way in her community. 

As part of her involvement with AIA AAH, Renee is Co-Chair of this year’s Student Design Charrette at the Healthcare Design Conference + Expo taking place in San Antonio, Texas, October 8-11, 2022.

Renee brings considerable experience to the effort. She has volunteered and served in leadership roles within the AIA AAH for six years in total, and before that, was also a student participant during her studies at Texas A&M.  Below, she shares her perspective on the importance of the Student Design Charrette experience.

This exciting annual event is designed to highlight the brilliance and innovation of our future healthcare architects.  Each year, students from four universities bring their creativity and ideas to this fun and evocative design charrette.

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What it takes to get the job done

In my role, I’ve organized the drawing to select the participating schools during the educator’s forum at the Summer Leadership Conference. I worked with the AIA around logistics to get everything set up for the conference. Our team includes two others, and we develop the program, site, and topic for the charrette along with selecting and working with a host firm in the city of the conference. 

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We present the topic to the students and make ourselves available for questions during the 48-hour charrette. We host a mid-point design review and share feedback for the students, and then we help to organize the final presentations for the students to present during the conference. 

This role requires strong organization skills to coordinate all the details and plan out the charrette beforehand so that the students can spend their limited time focused on their designs instead of worrying about meals, the environment, printing needs, etc.  I help to market the charrette to professionals getting them involved with the students and providing feedback to their designs. I also mentor the students both during and often after the charrette. 

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Where Page/EYP and the charrette intersect

Part of this role involves selecting a topic relevant to healthcare design today and developing a realistic program to accompany it. My experience as a medical planner at Page/EYP helps me to consider the current healthcare topics and trends, and we have many different project types to reference all over the country when looking for a similar program. 

Mentoring the way

I was very fortunate to have been able to participate in the charrette when I was a student, and the experience it provided strongly impacted me and influenced the path I chose upon graduation. Because of my experience, I have made an effort to mentor the next generation of healthcare designers to help them see the deep passion and impactful design challenges associated with healthcare design. 

Being involved with the charrette connects me to so much talent.  In fact,  I met our firm’s current Tradewell Fellow Calise Gritters when she was a student in the charrette. We kept in touch, and she later decided to apply and was selected for the Tradewell Fellowship. 

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Evolving opportunities

Through this role, I’ve developed relationships with many university professors. I’m often asked to join their student design reviews at the end of semesters, and I’m always inspired to see the thought-provoking work they share. It’s truly an honor to contribute to this learning experience and to be able to help provide this platform for students seeking careers in architecture and design.

Renee Fiala

Senior Medical Planner

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