Reflecting on Veterans Day: The Will to Public Service

The U.S. Military taught me to solve my way out of problems.

In my nearly 5 years of service, I was primarily in charge of the technical maintenance operations of 14 Bradley Tanks. This included daily diagnostics and repairs of wheeled and armored vehicles carrying ordinance, fuels and electrical systems while managing over $44M of assets and equipment – it was a fun logistics game to play with my team of 5 other mechanics. I learned to truly collaborate and rely on my colleagues to pull together toward our combat simulations and home-base operations. Ultimately, the three Army Achievement Medals that I earned in 1992, 1993, and 1994 spurred me on to reach for higher education with the help of the Montgomery G.I. Bill.

That’s how I ultimately became an architect.

Through my 7 years of undergraduate architecture education, I became utterly interested in the entire history of the human condition, and my place in it. I learned to think in systems. And through my travels in Europe for my studies abroad, I discovered my passion for the built environment – buildings, transport, and energy. These interests led me to earn my first master's degree in architecture and urban design at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation after a life-changing research and design project in Kumasi, Ghana that taught me the critical need for public health in the built environment. But it was when I graduated from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs that I really found my voice to address the connecting links between people and the built environment.

That’s why I ultimately became a thought leader.

During my time at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) directing strategy workshops, I helped multiple strategic partners optimize their resources and expand their social impact in sustainable, resilient buildings and communities to strengthen global health systems, and identify new solutions to improve non-communicable diseases. This resulted in 17 projects valued over $405 million dollars when fully implemented.

Working with organizations in healthcare, sustainability, and buildings expanded my understanding of the issues that drive the experience and state of health possible in the built environment. I learned the global scale of impact and the organizational discipline needed to get results. But most importantly, President Clinton's call to action taught me that indeed, Together we can do so much more. 

That’s what wills me to public service.

Perhaps no greater indicator of one’s effect is the successful operation of an idea. To drive a concept through the structural and social formation needed of a project or program that touches hundreds, thousands, even millions of lives is highly fulfilling to me.

In my current work at the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), our focus on the impact of design on people has resulted in the development and administration of our new eLearning platform ASID Academy for IDCEC-approved Continuing Education Units (CEUs). With programmatic oversight for all online courses, workshop courses, webinars, and virtual meetings, this work is an extension of the 2014 ASID "Protocols for Health and Wellness in Design", a Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action targeting +40K industry practitioners and professionals with leading-edge education about health, wellness and the built environment.

Thanks to those early foundational years, I ultimately came to realize that the will to be of service is creative, not merely controlling, and that to improve the shortcomings of the built environment would require my active participation in this sector. As I continue the work of helping to transform how the interiors profession considers its power to deliver impact at a very intimate but highly collective scale, I am grateful for all the discipline and camaraderie that I experienced in the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy as a young man. With the support of my veterans network, I feel pride in my contribution to our nation’s defense, and my future contribution to our nation’s cities, communities, and people. But most of all, I feel deep gratitude to all the soldiers, sergeants, and officers that saw a friend, a colleague, and a brother in me and believed in the promise of all the good work that was yet to come.