A wide shot of a ceramics studio, featuring students working with pottery wheels and other tools.

Charlie Klecha (MArch 2014)


Where are you now and what kind of work/projects are you currently working on? 

I'm currently working in downtown Detroit as the Managing Director of the Detroit Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, a role that combines my passions for architecture and design, advocacy, professional development, community service, event planning, and 80-hour work weeks. No two days running a scrappy 1000-member nonprofit are ever alike, which provides constant opportunities for innovation and growth. Since joining the staff at AIAD, we've launched multiple new programs ranging from a competitive, 16-member leadership development program for young professionals, to a pioneering K-8 outreach program bringing design thinking and collaborative community development to underprivileged youth on Detroit's east side, and illuminating the career possibilities in the AEC industry. 


How did SAIC prepare you for where you are today?  What particular classes/projects/approaches to subjects influenced you?

SAIC was an influential factor in the trajectory my career has taken, but I would credit the times in between formal coursework as much as I would the studios themselves. The opportunities I sought out at SAIC prepared me to be an active advocate for architecture and design education, and the emerging generation of design professionals, including participation in the 2014 accreditation visit from the National Architectural Accrediting Board, leadership in the SAIC Chapter of the AIAS, and the first Chicago Design Education Symposium.


What career advice do you have for current students, looking at how you see your field evolving, what is critical for the future practitioner?

I would encourage students today to be diligent in their studies and their craft, but to know that those things will only get them to the starting line. The real race for excellence and early career advancement is all about the 'what else?' - What other activities or organizations are you actively involved in? What courses, certifications, or programs have you participated in to set yourself apart from the pack? What subject matter areas have you developed expertise in, to the extent that you could serve to educate to your future employers? The Master/Apprentice model is rapidly losing ground in our industry, in favor of more collaborative and mutually supportive attitudes that embrace mentorship as a two-way street. Be ready to bring something unique to the table, and own it. 

With whom did you study at SAIC or who influenced you?

I couldn't begin to list the mentors I studied under at SAIC who profoundly impacted my life and my career -Peter Exley, Anders Nereim, Tristan Sterk, Ellen Grimes, George Aye, Hennie Reynders, HM Nugent, Paul Tebben, and Mike Newman, to name just a few. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention everyone involved with the Kurtich Scholarship and Foundation, which was a transformational experience, and a cause that I remain involved with. And my Tai Chi instructor, Hau Kum Kneip.