After nearly a decade of working in education design, Jenine Kotob, AIA, decided to focus on some of the most pressing issues facing the profession by pursuing legislative advocacy.
In my younger years, my family spent a lot of time traveling. My dad’s side of the family is from Egypt, so we would travel there every summer as kids to visit. The first time I saw the pyramids of Giza was a very profound moment, especially as a young child to see this huge structure in front of me. That was the first time my interest in architecture was sparked and it was exciting because it was an opportunity to see architecture in a non-Western context.
For me, always having insight and access to other parts of the world has been amazing and that’s one of the reasons I’ve always been so passionate about architecture. The built environment is very expressive of people and culture all around the world and it allows us to celebrate diverse world views.
Any of my former employers or bosses or mentors will say, “Jenine, you have so many things you’re passionate about. You’ve got to narrow it in.” But I’ve always resisted that. It wasn’t until graduate school when I began to bridge my passions together. I was passionate about education and the power of education to transform lives. That stems from a very personal place. My own parents came from middle-class working families, were immigrants to the US, and were able to overcome their own challenges through education to eventually become leaders in their own fields. After seeing that firsthand, I became fascinated with the intersection of education and architecture. I started to focus on learning environment design, and spent nearly a decade working with school communities in the broader Washington, DC area.
Eventually, I realized that my graduate school research and myriad passions were not integrated in my day-to-day life working at an architecture firm. I was at a crossroads and had to ask myself, “Do I start my own thing? Build my own company? Design schools overseas?” “Or, do I pivot and think of the big picture? Policy issues that impact architecture?” I was always so interested in issues around equity, economy, safety, and how those issues are challenging our communities.
I decided to pivot my career and go work at AIA National for an opportunity to work on equity and the architecture workforce. These days I’m thinking about the people who are designing buildings and how we can equitably support and empower them to cultivate a healthier culture within our profession. I see it as being very critical to improving how architects are supporting the built environment, as well. Ultimately, we are all a part of a grand ecosystem. If we can support the architect, we can support the builder, the laborers, and eventually we’re helping the client and end users, for generations to come.
Team Three is an editorial and creative consultancy based in Washington, DC.