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Danielle Mitchell Elected AIAS President

Fifth-year Penn State architecture student Danielle Mitchell was elected president of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) at the organization's national meeting over the New Year holiday in Nashville. She will serve a one-year term beginning in July 2015.

Mitchell was twice elected to serve as the Northeast Quadrant director for AIAS after a successful two-year term as the Penn State chapter president. The chapter saw immense growth under her leadership. Membership grew 92% and the mentorship program started by Mitchell’s predecessor, Lily Meier (’13 B.Arch.), grew to reach 60% of the school’s students.

Mitchell’s distinguished tenure with AIAS complements her extraordinary service to the Penn State community. She served on the Penn State THON Operations Committee from Fall 2011 through Spring 2013. She has been devoted to recruitment and retention in the Architecture department at the Stuckeman School, serving for multiple years as a student ambassador for undergraduate recruitment and as the student representative for the Architecture Department.

In his letter of support for Mitchell’s candidacy, Mehrdad Hadighi, Architecture Department Head, complimented Mitchell’s natural leadership style:

“I have only seen superb organization, thoughtful comments, and exemplary behavior from (Mitchell) in all my interactions with her. She strikes me as a ‘born leader.’ Both her peers and our faculty have immense respect for her.”

Mitchell’s studio faculty also contributed a statement of their support:

“Danielle is amazingly receptive to others’ viewpoints, whether it is learning from a professor or receiving input from one of her committee members. She wants to master challenges and improve the world she can affect, whether it is policies that affects students or the communities affected by her designs.”

While she has shown great commitment to the Penn State and her own Architecture department, Mitchell’s work with AIAS has been focused on strengthening architecture and design education culture throughout the nation. Her senior thesis examined the design of an architecture studio and how its layout and material use affects the way students learn and interact. As chair of the AIAS Advocacy Task Force focused on studio culture, Mitchell drives the AIAS efforts to promote optimism, positivity, and mutual respect between faculty and students in design education. Mitchell’s goal for her AIAS presidency will be to host a summit that brings together students, professors, sociologists, and economists to create a set of standards that promote a healthy studio culture. 

She has also committed her efforts to supporting the National Design Services Act as AIAS works with members of Congress to encourage architecture graduates to consider work in community design with the support of student loan assistance.

When offering guidance to students considering any design program and career, Mitchell’s advice is to have the courage to learn from adversity:

“Be open to admitting mistakes. It’s easy to let ego take over in a design environment, but here at the Stuckeman School the students and professors work through problems and are okay with not being right all of the time because there’s usually a great opportunity that comes from being wrong or making mistakes.”

Mitchell eagerly anticipates her service on the AIAS board of directors as president. Following her term, she anticipates seeking licensure and a management career in design. “I’ve always cared most about supporting my peers in their efforts. That’s where my passion is.” She credits her Stuckeman School peers and faculty with the rampant success she has experienced in growing the Penn State AIAS network and mentorship program that she leaves as her legacy.

Student Danielle Mitchell making speech at lectern on stage