The American Institute of Architects Names Two AIA New Jersey Women In Architecture to the Inaugural Next To Lead Program

October 15, 2021

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The American Institute of Architects Names Two AIA New Jersey Women In Architecture to the Inaugural Next To Lead Program

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is supporting diverse future female leaders in the architecture profession by selecting 17 members to its Next to Lead inaugural program. 

Next to Lead is the first program of its kind to support association leadership for ethnically diverse women aspiring to be leaders of the AIA. Candidates were selected by jurors from AIA’s Equity and the Future of Architecture Committee (EQFA) who conducted a blind review of applications and reference letters. 

AIA New Jersey is proud to announce that two of the women selected are members of AIA New Jersey. 

Libertad McLellan Harris, Associate AIA, CSI-EP, WELL® AP, GGP, also known as Lauren, has already established herself as a leader and influencer in AIANJ.  She currently serves as the 2020-2022 Regional Associate Director representing New Jersey’s Emerging Professionals at the National Associates Committee, Chair of the AIA-NJ Women in Architecture Committee and the AIA-NJ Committee on the Environment and Trustee for the New Jersey Architects’ Political Action Committee. Lauren is the past section director for the AIA West Jersey Emerging Professionals Community and was recently honored with the AIA New Jersey Associate of the Year Award in 2019 as well as being recognized with a Young Architect Conference Award in 2021. Lauren was also the creator and moderator of the 2020 AIA NJ African American Architect Equity Experience Webinar Series. 

Along with her notable AIA volunteer resume credentials, Lauren also makes time to give back to the surrounding communities and proactively reaches out to local schools and students. She championed her office’s participation in the 2018 CANstruction Pennsauken event benefitting the Food Bank of South Jersey and has supported both local and state-wide STEAM initiatives for the past two years. Through her STEAM involvement, Lauren combines several of her passions and showcases the diverse knowledge of an architect by mentoring children of all ages. Lauren provides guidance on a variety of potential inventions from aquaponic farms to tiny homes, encouraging the children to think bigger and bolder. She serves annually as a mentor and judge on the NJ School Board Association STEAM TANK Competition. 

Lauren graduated from the New Jersey Institute of Technology as an Albert Dorman Honors Scholar, Cum Laude, with a Bachelor’s of Architecture degree, and a minor in Environmental and Sustainable Studies. Lauren’s research in Bio-Enabled Facade Engineering, which proposes to mitigate carbon emissions and generate bio lipids for on-site energy production within the building facade, has received first place in the 2015 Dana Knox Research Showcase and was presented at the eCADDe conference in Finland. Her work in Soft Robotics and Emerging Architectural Materials appeared in Architectural Digest, January 2016 issue. 


Levitta Lawrence-Gathers, Associate AIA, is an architectural graduate from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. While completing her studies, she won a design competition for Habitat for Humanity for the design of a single-family home that was affordable, sustainable and innovative. Through this honor, she was featured in the Star Ledger and received a paid internship with Inglese Architecture and Engineering.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Levitta has also contributed to the PCI design studio that inspired the publication of the book Design for Resilience, which documents student ideas toward more efficient building techniques for coastal towns. Levitta is currently pursuing architectural licensure and is working with NK to explore her passion for developing educational facilities. 

Levitta enjoys all things art and design, whether it’s film, photography, graphic design, music or fashion. She also enjoys travel, food and lots of coffee. But most of all, Levitta hopes to help disadvantaged communities, inspire others that come from where she comes from, and shatter every glass ceiling set above her. (From

Next to Lead is a two-phase program, launching Oct. 15, which will be followed by an online curriculum and monthly virtual sessions focusing on association leadership during 2022. In the second phase, participants will work on a collaborative project developed with a local or state component or a knowledge-based group within the AIA.

The program was created as a result of a member-driven resolution sponsored by AIA Georgia in 2018, which was intended to ensure AIA is developing education, systems, and processes that are inclusive for the short and long term. AIA is working to create a pathway to local, state, and national leadership through experiential learning on association leadership, management, knowledge, and experience.

Join us in congratulating these women. They are our future!  Read the AIA Press Release HERE

By | Posted in Women in Architecture | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments (0)



Architects are creative professionals, educated, trained, and experienced in the art and science of building design, and licensed to practice architecture. Their designs respond to client needs, wants and vision, protect public safety, provide economic value, are innovative, inspire and contribute positively to the community and the environment.

414 Riverview Plaza, Trenton, NJ 08611
(609) 393-5690