Top left photo: SGPA Job Captain D’Sjon Dixon mentoring a student in the Bay Area organization Y-Plan (Youth – Plan, Learn, Act, Now!)

Bottom left photo: SGPA Associate Janette Tropea (at left) at an Urban Land Institute meeting


One of SGPA’s core values centers around community: the communities we live in, work in, and that shape our lives. It’s a theme we find intrinsic to our longevity and supports our design goals to foster enriching environments for people, places, and spaces we love. In this blog post, members of the SGPA leadership team share how they achieved professional and personal growth outside the office walls through participation in various organizations.  

“Service is a two-way street”


SGPA colleague: Stuart Stoller, Associate Principal, Director of Wellness and Senior Living

Organization(s): Planning for Elders (since merged with another senior advocacy organization), and Resources for Community Development (RCD)

Stuart’s Story:Years ago, I was asked to join a non-profit board (Planning for Elders) of directors by a client.  This non-profit involved issues related to seniors, which developed into an excellent education for me as an architect for senior housing. I was able to learn firsthand about the spectrum of challenges facing seniors, which helped me on both a professional level and personal level.  My involvement with this non-profit later became invaluable in my personal life: upon the encouragement and from the aide of other board members, I was able to get my mother admitted to a top ranked care facility, one significantly beyond my means.  I then realized my years of board service had paid me back (or actually paid my mother back, which pleased her immensely). 

Stuart’s Takeaways: Such service is a two way street.  You will give, but you will also receive.


“Create the community you seek – shared visions and participation help develop a community you want to live in.” 


SGPA colleague: Janette Tropea, Associate, Project and Marketing Manager

Organization(s): Urban Land Institute

Janette’s Story: “When I learned how ULI’s top professionals were quite willing to mentor younger leaders in the industry, I thought of it as a highly collaborative and high functioning multi-generational organization, which appealed to me tremendously. I quickly became an active member of the Young Leaders Group, the 35 and under group which works tandem to the senior leaders and its various efforts. Through my involvement, I have participated in the Technical Assistance Panel, a pro bono effort to help a local non-profit with a land issue. I was invited to be part of the Young Leaders Board and I am leading the group’s effort to reach out to Universities and Academics to collaborate and join in the efforts for responsible land use development. I am also helping to develop our chapter’s mentor program and design award for 2016 focusing on designing healthy places. My work with ULI has been a very enjoyable collaboration that leaves me inspired and energized by the exchange of ideas and relationships I am building.”

Janette’s Takeaways: Young professionals have a lot to offer when given a platform. Volunteering and participating in organizations with which you share a vision is bound to yield great relationships and personal fulfillment.


 “Use your talents to help better your local community.”


SGPA colleague: David Janes, Principal

Organization(s): AIA, Committee on Design and the Historic Resources Committee, City of Richmond’s Design Review Board and Historical Board, Trails for Richmond Action Committee (TRAC)

David’s Story: “My local community has lots of history, and it’s important to me to do what I can to improve the downtown area and support local causes…

I served on the City of Richmond’s Design Review Board as well as the Historical Board serving several 4 year terms…while the hours required were trying at times, the skills gained in learning about the approval process and speaking in front of people helped me tremendously.

To help preserve one of the oldest structures in my local community, I volunteered as an architect to prepare plans that assisted in the entitlements and construction of a new gateway to our community and the rehab and relocation of the Historic Trainmaster Building.

I am passionate about kayaking, which relates to an organization I volunteered for (TRAC) that works on the Bay Trail and bike/walking/boat networks around Richmond. I helped draw up plans for a new boat launch/park area near the Richmond Harbor. After several revisions to the plans and lots of fundraiser events, city grant money, and political approvals, the “Boat Street Ramp” on Cutting Boulevard was completed…another special place that provides great access to our treasured San Francisco Bay!

David’s Takeaways: Selecting types of volunteer projects that use your skill sets offer an opportunity to share, learn and grow with other professionals. Volunteering and participating in more local projects has provided great satisfaction and opportunities to see the results of hard work, dedication and team building.


“Offer your strengths to help your community’s development.”


SGPA colleague: Glenn Wood, Associate Principal, Design Director

Organization(s): El Cerrito Design Review Board

Glenns’s Story: “Years ago I worked for an architect who was on a design review board in San Luis Obispo. At the time I was younger but I thought eventually I would like to do that. When I moved to El Cerrito about ten years ago I met a neighbor who was on the local board and I asked him about his experience and how to apply. I applied and have been on the design review board for seven years now. I enjoy it because it allows me to give back to my community while using my architectural background. It gives me a chance to practice public speaking and to lead a meeting.  It also allows me to see firsthand what other architects are proposing and how they put together their graphics and presentations. When I present an SGPA project I have good idea of how to approach the presentation because I’ve sat on the other side of the table.”

Glenns’s Takeaways: Community board involvement strengthens relationships, provides public speaking opportunities, offers insight to community plans, and gives realistic perspective. It is a great way to meet other architects and leaders in your community.



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