The Learning Lab | Redux

The Learning Lab | Redux

Tom Jacobs — a partner in Krueck Sexton Partners — and I will be talking with students of Michelle Wempe‘s Contemporary Design Seminar (Kansas State University). Our topic is once again, “What Will the Design Professions Look Like in 2030 and Beyond?” Since it’s a seminar, the students get to ask us lots of questions — “Zoom speed teaching.” A lot has changed since our previous session in 2020, and we are eager to learn from the students.

I hope that you’ll enjoy a post from 10 years ago, when Nancy Egan and I were teaching at the Harvard GSD.


My colleagues and I have always believed that it’s important to write, teach, and testify. When I was in kindergarten, my teacher said that I should become a teacher, and that became my career path. Until reality set in, shortly after graduating from college with a degree preparatory for teaching elementary school.

My father was an inventor and entrepreneur who had gone into the construction industry and then invented automated specifications for architects and engineers. The system he developed was adopted by the Construction Specifications Institute, and he was elevated to Fellowship in CSI.

I always loved architecture and had studied architectural history in high school. Then my father was in the AEC industry, so I began to meet some of his friends. I also had a close friend who was an interior designer. I realized that I really wanted to work in the AEC industry, too. The next thing I knew, I was working with architects and designers.

Over the years, I began teaching — as a guest lecturer in colleges and universities, and also in executive education. With my colleagues Nancy Egan and Paul Nakazawa, we taught in the Executive Education Program of the Harvard Graduate School of Design from 1995 to 2004, and then again from 2010 to 2012.  I’ve also spoken at professional association events, including AIA (American Institute of Architects) at the chapter, state and national level; PSMA (Professional Services Management Association); SMPS (Society for Marketing Professional Services); and KA Connect. In a full circle, in 2011, I was the keynote speaker for the CSI Western Regional Conference, with a wonderful opportunity to spend time with several of my father’s friends.

I have always enjoyed teaching at the undergrad and graduate level. Three years ago, one of my dear friends and colleagues, Michelle Wempe, accepted a teaching position with Kansas State University (KSU), where she is a Professor of Practice in the College of Architecture, Planning & Design. That has led to a series of guest-teaching opportunities, on everything from Professional Practice topics (Marketing, Communications) to the History of Women in Design.

Next week, I’ll report on our most recent teaching experience….


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