Women Leading Architecture II Colloquium

The Harold L Adams Leadership Symposium Series in the Built Environment
April 26, 2019 -
2:00 PM to 4:30 PM
Great Space

Women Leading Architecture II Colloquium

The Harold L. Adams Leadership Symposium Series in the Built Environment



Several years ago, Harold Adams, FAIA, RIBA, created an endowment for the Architecture Program to enable discourse on topics of leadership in the profession. Women Leading Architecture II is the second in a series of colloquia at the University of Maryland that examine the leadership styles, skills and stories of influential women in architecture. This year's panel is moderated by Helene Dreiling, FAIA, Past-president (2014) of the American Institute of Architects. Ms. Dreiling is currently Interim CEO of the National Architectural Accrediting Board. Dreiling will encourage discussion among the panelists, each of whom have navigated the profession to assume leadership positions in their particular practice specialty. Following the panel discussion, Deborah Berke, FAIA, Dean of the Yale School of Architecture and former University of Maryland faculty member will deliver the Colden "Coke" Florance Endowed Lecture.





Helene Dreiling , FAIA

Past-President American Institute of Architects, Moderator


Hazel Edwards, Ph.D., FAICP, Assoc. AIA

Howard University


Carol Gilbert

Maryland Department of Housing & Community Development


Gretchen Pfaehler, AIA

Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners, LLP


Irena Savakova, RIBA, LEED, AP BD+C

Leo A. Daly, Planning, Architecture, Engineering & Design


Mary Yagi

Vice President, JBG Smith Properties






Helene Dreiling, FAIA

Helene currently serves as Interim Executive Director of the National Architectural Accrediting Board, the organization responsible for accrediting some 155 professional degree programs in architecture across 125 American colleges and universities. The NAAB also offers credentialing for architecture graduates from international institutions, as well as equivalency platforms for foreign schools of architecture, among other services.


Prior to the NAAB post, Helene was Executive Vice President of AIA Virginia, the statewide chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). As CEO of the professional society for architects in Virginia, she led and managed delivery of service and support to over 2,400 AIA members and Associate members, as well as others in the architecture profession and the design and construction industry. Helene was also the Executive Director of The Branch Museum of Architecture and Design, a museum dedicated to revealing the inherent beauty of the created form and space, igniting a passion for design through exhibitions, public programs, education, tours, special events, and publications.


Formerly, she managed The Plum Studio, Ltd., a specialty firm with expertise in architecture and design, association/non-profit strategic planning and facilitation, organizational consulting, and business writing. Helene served for nearly ten years on the national AIA staff, having transitioned in 2000 from private architectural practice and national AIA volunteer leadership. In addition to having her own firm from 1989 to 2000, her professional experience includes work with several private architecture firms in Virginia, and she was employed early in her career by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.


An active volunteer in – and leader of – the AIA for more than 30 years, Helene had the honor of being elected by her colleagues to serve as President of the American Institute of Architects in 2014.  She was the third Virginian as well as the third woman to hold this prestigious position. Also for the AIA, she was formerly Institute Secretary, Vice President, and Regional Director from The Virginias on the AIA national Board of Directors. She has also served on the boards of AIA Virginia and AIA Blue Ridge and was President of both chapters, among other positions. Helene has been a regent of the American Architectural Foundation, was AIA liaison to the American Institute of Architecture Students Board of Directors, and served as a Trustee of the Virginia Center for Architecture Foundation.


Helene was elevated to the AIA’s College of Fellows in 2000 for her service to the profession, with an emphasis on nurturing future professionals. She received her Bachelor of Architecture degree from Virginia Tech in 1981, where she was named “Woman of the Year” for academic excellence and exemplary student leadership.



Hazel Edwards, Ph.D., FAICP, Assoc. AIA

Dr. Edwards’ unique career has combined place-related research with planning and urban design practice and teaching. A native of North Carolina, Dr. Edwards was raised in Washington, D.C. and later graduated from Howard University (Bachelor of Architecture).  She went on to receive degrees from Harvard University (Master of Architecture in Urban Design) and the University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign (Ph.D. in regional planning). She returned to North Carolina as a Carolina Minority Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 


She is a certified planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners and was elected to their College of Fellows in 2018.  She is the co-recipient of the 2015 Marcia Feld Leadership Award, Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning.


Dr. Edwards returned to Howard in July 2016 as the first woman in the history of architectural education at the University to be elevated to the rank of full professor and to lead the Department of Architecture, College of Engineering and Architecture.  Prior to returning to her alma mater, she taught in the graduate city planning program at Morgan State University and served as the program director for the Master of City and Regional Planning program at The Catholic University of America. 



Carol Gilbert

Carol Gilbert is a 1992 graduate of the UMD School of Architecture.  She is now the Assistant Secretary and Director of the Division of Neighborhood Revitalization for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). At DHCD Ms. Gilbert is responsible for managing State and Federal grant and loan programs totaling approximately $85 million dollars annually revitalize communities and assist lower income households. These resources are largely capital dollars that catalyze reinvestment in historic communities throughout Maryland.


Before joining DHCD twelve years ago, Ms. Gilbert was Program Officer at the Goldseker Foundation, specializing in community development grant making inBaltimoreCity.  While at Goldseker, Ms. Gilbert was founding co-chair of the Baltimore Homeownership Preservation Coalition, a public-private partnership of more than fifty organizations working to prevent foreclosure and  predatory lending practices. 


In the 1990’s after getting out of graduate Architecture school, Ms. Gilbert became executive director of the Neighborhood Design Center, a 50 year-old Baltimore-based nonprofit organization dedicated to providing lower income communities with access to professional community design services. 


She received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Maryland College Park’s Graduate School of Architecture.  She and her husband have been residents of Maryland’s Prince George’s County for 25 years.



Gretchen Pfaehler, AIA

Gretchen Pfaehler, AIA, is a Partner and Preservation Architect at Beyer Blinder Belle. As the Past President of Association for Preservation Technology (APT) International and current member and past chair of the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB), she has played a key role in the landscape of high-profile preservation projects in the city and region. Ms. Pfaehler has over 27 years of experience in the preservation, restoration, and renovation of historic buildings and landscapes domestically and abroad. Her experience with existing buildings provides a solid understanding of the requirements for determination of significant building elements and developing sustainable design solutions integrating new uses that maintain the historic character of the building. Ms. Pfaehler has practiced, lectured, and published extensively on historic preservation and sustainability within the existing building context. Her work has been recognized with 35 national, regional, state, and local preservation awards. Some of her clients have included the Architect of the Capitol, National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, National Park Service, US Department of State, US General Services Administration, and a myriad of private and institutional organizations.


Mary Yagi

Mary Yagi is Vice President of Development for JBG SMITH, a leading owner and developer of high-quality, mixed-use properties in the Washington DC market.  Mary works on a variety of development projects at JBG SMITH, with a concentration on their extensive pipeline of multi-family projects.  She is involved at all stages of project design development from conducting internal feasibility studies, to recommending and aiding in the selection of design and project consultants, to providing design reviews, consultant coordination, and quality control throughout each project’s process.


Prior to the 2017 company merger that formed JBG SMITH, she was Senior Director of Residential Architecture at Vornado/Charles E. Smith since 2013.  During her tenure at Vornado/Charles E. Smith, she completed the entitlement and delivery of The Bartlett, a 699 unit apartment building with Whole Foods Grocery, located in the newly defined National Landing area of Arlington, VA.   Prior to shifting over to development, Mary spent her formative years after graduation at Torti Gallas and Partners, where she was a Project Architect/Manager for several projects located in Maryland, DC and Virginia.  Notable projects include The Upton in Rockville, The Swift in Petworth DC, Lionsgate Condominiums in Bethesda, MD, Highland Park Apartments in Columbia Heights, 1301 Thomas Circle, and Strathmore Park in Rockville, MD.


Mary has a B.S. in Architecture and B.A. in Sociology from the University of Maryland at College Park (GO TERPS!).


Irena Savakova, RIBA, LEED, AP BD+C

Ms. Savakova is a Vice President and the first woman to serve as Director of Design for the award-winning international architecture and engineering design firm Leo A Daly in its Washington DC office.  She currently serves as one of three Global Directors of Design for Leo A Daly and is highly regarded by her peers as a leader in the design profession, recognized with numerous design awards.  Her company wide responsibilities include strategic planning, design development and oversight, business development, marketing and recruiting. Throughout her career spanning almost three decades, Ms. Savakova has led many teams schooled in the STEM disciplines, designing and delivering complex, comfortable, secure and inspiring works of architecture.  Her projects span the Corporate Commercial, Federal, Educational, Municipal and Intuitional market sectors.  Ms. Savakova’s multidisciplinary approach leverages her in-depth knowledge of building core and shell development, interior design and complex space planning.  Her many projects represent this unique design approach and can be experienced throughout the greater Washington DC Metropolitan area, across the nation and inter-nationally (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, KSA, Serbia, Bulgaria).


The passion for interdisciplinary design has led Ms. Savakova to contribute to the designs of many signature buildings for agencies such as the Social Security Administration, the National Guard Bureau, the Air National Guard, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.  Most recently for the US Department of State, Ms. Savakova provided conceptual design for US embassies in Zimbabwe and Mauritania. Ms. Savakova was also a key member of the design team for the winning entry in the University of Dubai International Design Competition.  Currently she serves as Principal in Charge, leading the design team for the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, which begins construction in 2019 on the College Park Campus.