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Nicole Gerou used to want to be a geologist or a weather girl, but after learning that she could turn her love for “Sims” into a real career as an architect, she changed her mind.

Now a design professional at HAA, Nicole is preparing to begin her year in AIA Detroit’s Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program (CKLDP). It’s the first year the program has had a chapter in Detroit.

Check out HAA’s Q&A with Nicole to learn more about her background, interests and involvement.

Where are you from?
I grew up in Marquette, MI in the Upper Peninsula – I’m a proud Yooper!

What college did you attend and what did you study?
I moved to Southfield after graduating from high school to attend Lawrence Technological University. I received my B.S. in Architecture in 2013 and my M. Arch in 2015. I also have two certificates: Building Modeling Information + Computer Visualization and Technical and Professional Communications.

How did you end up at HAA?
If I’m being honest, I’ve had my eye on HAA for a long time now (almost 5 years). Mark definitely helped me with getting in the door, and I am very thankful for that. The culture and comradery here is a great work environment to be in!

What initially sparked your interest in design?
I used to want to be a geologist or a weather girl. Then once day in 5th grade my mom bought me the computer game Sims. I loved it! But I hated playing the people. I asked my mom if there is a real grown-up job that does this for a living and she said “architects” – and I never looked back.

What design work do you do?
I don’t get to design much now – I enjoy the technical side of architecture – but when I do I enjoy community based design with the end-user in mind. More specifically educational environments and the influence architecture on the occupants.

What other interests do you have?
I really enjoy giving my time back to the community. Whether that’s through the alumni cabinet for LTU, AIAS, or teaching dance to kids. I also really enjoy dance. When I was at Lawrence Tech I helped start the dance team, and now they’re go-ing to start doing competitions this year! I’m incredibly thankful to have the opportunity to be able to drop into practice and perform as an alumna.

Why did you decide to apply for the CKLDP?
I wanted to apply for the CKLDP because I’ve always been really involved with AIAS or AIA one way or another. I’ve been missing that aspect in my life lately and reached out to a friend who works for AIA and he told me that this would be a great program to start my involvement. I’m very excited to have higher level conversations again.

Are there other organizations or programs you’re currently in or have previously been involved with before?
As previously mentioned I have been very active with AIAS or AIA in the past. I was involved with LTU’s AIAS chapter and eventually became Midwest Quadrant Director for AIAS Nationals. This provided me with opportunities such as sitting on the 2015 AIA National Honor Awards Jury, 2015 COTE Top Ten Student Awards Jury. Prior to this I was also involved with AIA Detroit as a summer intern. Other organizations I’ve been involved with in the past include: Student Government, Order of Omega, and Chi Omega Rho.

How do you think this program is going to strengthen your skills?
The CKLDP has a very high reputation of shaping the lives of emerging professionals. I have friends that were scholars in the DC program and they speak very highly of it. I’m hoping the program will boost my confidence as well as public speaking skills. I’m excited to work with emerging professionals at all different levels and learn and grow throughout the next 10 months.

Anything else you want to add?

I’ve worked in Detroit in the past and there was a great vibe throughout the city. Being back downtown I feel like I missed a lot in the short time that I was working in the ‘burbs. I’m the type of person that gets my energy from other people, and the energy downtown is very positive and optimistic. I’m happy and thankful to be back! I think working on Greektown has really helped me grow as a professional too. It’s amazing the responsibilities and trust the younger staff are provided with here. I’m not afraid to ask questions nor take criticism. I’ve learned a lot in my short time here and I’m looking forward to what the future has for me here at HAA.