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SDA National President's Message - August 2019

Posted By Administration, Monday, August 19, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, August 21, 2019


SDA National President, Brooke Simcik, CDFA, shares her August 2019 message.

Tags:  blockchain technology  education  leadership  President's Message  presidents video blog  SDA  voip 

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Welcome to Our Newest SDA Members

Posted By Administration, Thursday, August 1, 2019
Updated: Thursday, August 1, 2019

Please join us in welcoming our newest SDA members:

First Name Last Name Firm Chapter
Brittany Jamison Cross 2 Design Group Seattle
Ariel Kahan Maurice Walters Architect Member-at-Large - Washington, DC
Sarah Lippai BuildingWork Seattle
Avis Maclean Pond Atlanta
Leticia Magallanez Lopez Salas Architects San Antonio
Vanissa Murphy Quality Engineering & Surveying Baton Rouge
Joan Ortiz TLC Engineering Solutions, Inc. Orlando
Melissa Pinilla Marmon Mok San Antonio
Brad Richard Cajun Consutriction General Contractors, Inc. Atlanta
Laura Snider CTC Design Studio Atlanta
Virginia Woodard Pfluger Architects San Antonio


Be sure to connect with our newest members on SocialLink and encourage them to join in our many discussions!

Tags:  New Members  SDA  Society for Design Administration 

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Can Becoming a Better Writer Make You A Better Person?

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, July 16, 2019

While at EDSymposium19 I attended a seminar entitled “Fat-Free Gracewriting” presented by Judy Straalsund.   It explained the importance of writing in a way that makes it easy for your reader to understand your message.  As a writer we want to be sure we convey our information in a way that makes a connection between us and the reader. 

But have you ever considered how becoming a better writer can make you a better person?  Recently I read an article "Why Writing Will Make You a Better Person" in The Chronicle of Higher Education authored by Bob Fischer, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Texas State University and Nathan Nobis, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Morehouse College that offers a different argument.  Their thesis is that writing is an ethical activity and how we treat others is an ethical concern.  As writers it matters how we view and treat our readers.  Although the article was written for graduate students and faculty members, the ethical norms cited can benefit all writers.

Norms that should motivate good writing include trying to do good things and avoid causing bad ones; respect your readers as valuable and rational beings; and follow the Golden Rule.  As a writer remember how you like to be treated as a reader.  Apply the traits you most value to your writing.  The professors stated there are moral considerations that are relevant to how you write what you write.  If you want to do more to be better understood, include these considerations in your writing.  As much as possible, use ordinary words.  Don’t ask rhetorical questions.  And finally – revise your document as often as you think you should.   And then, if necessary, revise some more.

As the professors stated, it’s hard to become a good writer.  But then, it’s hard to become a good person.  Can becoming a better writer make you a better person?  Share your thoughts in the comment box below.



Marsha Witherspoon, CDFA serves as SDA National Treasurer for the 2019-2020 term.

She is a Member-at-Large from Columbus, Ohio.

Tags:  Better Person  Better Writer  SDA 

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Emergency Planning/Business Continuity

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 11, 2019
Updated: Thursday, July 11, 2019



With Tropical Storm Barry heading toward the Gulf Coast this week, our SDA Baton Rouge Chapter shared their Emergency Planning checklist during their recent chapter meeting. It was developed by the chapter in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina and it has been shared and used ever since.  Whether your weather in your area includes hurricane season or other potential natural disasters, here’s a good checklist to get you thinking about your office’s emergency plan.


Before the Storm


  • Call all staff members together for a meeting to discuss emergency plans
  • Provide staff members resources for their personal safety from such sites as:  National Weather Service, FEMA, Hurricane Tracking Chart
  • Create a phone tree or directory of all staff members including their home phone number, cell phone number and personal email addresses
  • Consider any payroll deadlines that may be missed during storm/emergency
  • Forward phone lines to someone’s cell phone


  • Divide current client list and designate staff members to contact the client to check on well being of client and keep them apprised of status of firm
  • Check calendars for appointments on days immediately following storm and either cancel or reschedule


  • Back up all data
  • Secure server/move to better location
  • Distribute back up data


  • Take pictures of the building and equipment to document what is there
  • Unplug all electrical equipment
  • Move critical equipment into more secure area away from windows and doors
  • Drape electronics in plastic bags or other waterproof materials
  • Clean out the refrigerator
  • If there is danger of water intrusion to the building, consider removing files from bottom file drawers to safer location
  • Have a copy of insurance policy and contact information

After the Storm


  • Contact staff members/initiate phone tree to check on everyone and advise on return to work schedule
  • Have staff members take files that may be needed to work offsite on a thumb drive


  • Contact active clients to check on them and apprise them of the firm’s status
  • If office is closed consider posting a contact number on the door for clients


  • If payments were missed due to storm, ask about waiving late fees or additional charges
  • If cannot return to office consider moving server to site with electricity
  • If a generator is used to supply power to desktop computers, be sure to charge the battery backup first and then plug the computer system into the backup.  Do not plug your system directly into the generator.  If using a laptop computer, a surge protector is sufficient to protect it from fluctuating current provided by the generator
  • Access to the internet may not be available so consider purchasing a wireless air card


  • If building has damages, take pictures of building and equipment to document damage
  • Contact insurance company

Are there other items that you would add to this list? Share them in the Comment Box below.


Special thanks to Robin Rayburn and the SDA Baton Rouge Chapter for compiling and sharing this timely information.

Tags:  Business Continuity Planning  Emergency Plan Checklist  Emergency Planning  SDA 

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I’ll Be Seeing You Again at EDS20! - PPC Grant Recipient Belinda Sanchez Shares Her EDS19 Highlights

Posted By Administration, Sunday, July 7, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, July 10, 2019

While I am not new to the A/E/C profession, I am still relatively new to SDA and its many beneficial offerings to our local professional community. Being a natural joiner, from year one, I delved wholeheartedly into participating and eventually chairing many of the programs our chapter offers. Through those experiences, I gained a special appreciation and pride for the enthusiasm and comradery of our chapter.  This year being my first time on the board, I decided that I wanted to gain more insight of SDA and its purpose. I felt EDSyposium would give me that perspective of the association, both from the national lens as well as through other chapters.

As a representative of AIA San Antonio, I wanted to be aware of not just the needs of the architect, but also of their staff, whose efforts toward success in the industry are of equal value. I felt that attending this conference would help me to gain a deeper appreciation of those needs… and it did. Understanding the needs of our professional and affiliate membership when it comes to maintaining licensure to running a firm, from contracts to risk management, as well as IT security concerns, just to name a few. I learned more than I thought I would. Not just about better office practices, but personal and professional growth. My intent is to bring back what I learned to our AIA San Antonio membership.

Of all the sessions, my favorite was Resiliency in the Real World by Beth Hanishewski, a motivational speaker who focuses on paths to success through relationships. Beth’s presentation contained anecdotal evaluations of ourselves as a means of understanding the whole and how we cope and/or do not cope in the real world.  Being able to understand how to take a step back and really understand the complexities of our individual selves and how that comprises the whole is an important tool. I found her presentation beneficial because it was the most insightful both on a personal and professional level. To be armed with a deeper understanding of oneself is a powerful tool for any person, in any profession, on any given day. For the conference to include a session of such prevalence in the landscape of life in general was fantastic.

I enjoyed the tremendously beautiful city of Spokane, Washington, of which I knew nothing about. It’s always exciting to visit a city you have never been to before, but the added bonus was to visit it with colleagues that you can call friends. All of us being from the same industry added to the experience in that we all had a deep appreciation for the built environment, the beauty of place-making and a city’s vision for a visitor’s experience. The landscape architect’s presentation on Riverfront Park, followed by the tour was, by far, the best part. Seeing the vision of the park through his eyes and understanding the intent changed how you viewed the park as you walked through it with him. It gave you a deeper appreciation for it and built anticipation to see it again when it is finished. But it is not just the experience of the conference in a new city, it’s the planning and comradery that is developed in the process. Attending EDSymposium was a bonding experience with my fellow SDAers.

Why does anyone want to go to conference anyway? Is it for professional growth or acknowledgement? Is it to develop new skill sets or to dive into new technologies, software or better business practices? Perhaps, it’s an exercise in team building or self-motivational strategies to remind you why you chose your career?  Or maybe, it’s just an opportunity to break away from the day to day routine, jet off to another city and spend time with a group of like-minded individuals of the same professional prowess to learn, commune, and grow as a professional. I say… it’s all of the above!

 Everyone should attend EDSymposium… as often as possible! It is not just an experience that will benefit the firm you work for or benefit your SDA chapter for you having gone. It’s an experience that will benefit you. Yes, you’ll learn things to help be a better employee—to be even more of an asset to your employer. You’ll meet other SDAers, both national and local board members, and learn from the presenters AND other SDA chapters things that you can bring back to your chapter. But more importantly, you’ll benefit from the overall experience. Your purpose for your chapter will become clearer, and what you bring back to your employer will increase your value to them. And the knowledge that you have gained… THAT is why everyone should consider going to EDSymposium every year! I am grateful that I was fortunate to have won a Past President’s Council scholarship to help pay for me to go this year. I recommend that everyone throw their hat into that ring when the opportunity comes around next year, and the year after that. The work to submit is not much more than an evening of writing and the benefits far outweigh that work. I sincerely hope that right now, a new SDAer is reading this and is inspired to apply for the PPC grant next year. Like me, you won’t regret it and I hope to meet you at EDS20!


Belinda Sanchez is the 2019 Recipient of the PPC First Time Attendee-Registration Only Grant.

She is a member of the SDA San Antonio Chapter

Tags:  EDS19  PPC Grant  SDA  SDA San Antonio 

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