“We hope to inspire generations of young creative people to think about the field of architecture as a career”

Whitney Stauffer a partner of Selser Schaefer Architects recently sat down with the Tulsa World to talk about well . . . architecture. Here’s what she had to say:

1. You’ve been a partner with Selser Schaefer Architects for two years. What is an achievement in that time that you are particularly proud of?

There’s a lot to choose from here, but I’d have to say growth. My personal growth has been exponential but, even more so, is our growth as a team. We are five young, diverse partners, and we have found a way to build on a strong legacy, yet authentically pave our own way. You can see the results in our studio. We have cultivated a culture of “growth mindset,” culture where it’s OK to make mistakes, but we learn from them and support each other through them. There’s a lot of laughter, a lot of Nerf wars and a lot of brilliant teamwork happening every day.

2. What are some of the major projects the firm is currently working on?

From the remodel of the Greenwood Cultural Center and the Family Center for Juvenile Justice in Tulsa to a two-story grocery store in Houston and a new elementary school in Stillwater; a new campus master plan for A New Leaf in Owasso and the Center for Arts Innovation and Creativity in Broken Arrow to the historic preservation of Seminary Hall on NSU’s campus in Tahlequah and multifamily projects in The Pearl and Kendall Whittier, we have major projects all over the place. But this is what makes us … well, us.

While each project is unique, there is a guiding theme. No matter the type, the organization or the city, we design spaces with people in mind. “People-First Design” means we are creating places with purpose. We are creating spaces that meet the needs of the people using them; whether to work, live, play, learn, grow or shop. This includes how it feels and how it functions. Applying this focus to our diverse projects keeps us fresh, up on the most current technologies and trends and makes for a happy design team and even happier clients.

3. How did you get into architecture and what attracted you to the industry?

My dear friend and mentor, John Stava, gets credit for recruiting me to the industry. He saw something in me that I had yet to see in myself, and for that, I am grateful. Once I was in, I realized it was a perfect fit … all these creative, yet Type-A folks. Why didn’t I think of this sooner? My degree is in journalism; but I chose Selser Schaefer Architects because of the people. My colleagues are so talented, and our clients are inspiring. Not to mention, there is something so gratifying about creating meaningful projects that will impact my daughter’s daughter’s daughter … and beyond. We are making a real difference in our community … one project at a time.

4. You are interested in seeing architecture become a more diverse field. Why is that important and how can you work to make that happen?
Our clients come from all backgrounds and walks of life, so to best represent them, we should too. But it’s not that simple. We can only be as diverse as our talent pool, and architecture programs were traditionally homogeneous. So we have to go to the source. We have put significant effort in marketing the field of architecture to young people — through career fairs, hosting field trips to our office, judging STEM competitions and more. We hope to inspire generations of young, creative people to think about the field of architecture as a career earlier. And to let them know that math isn’t a deal breaker. That’s always one of the first questions we get … we remind them that we have calculators.
Oh, and our last three hires are women … I’ll just leave that there.
5. Outside of work, what are some of the volunteer and nonprofit initiatives you have been a part of?

I only get involved with causes I am deeply passionate about. I am currently serving on the boards of Tulsa Regional Chamber, Foundation for Tulsa Schools and Leadership Tulsa. In 2020, I will add chairing the foundation for my kids’ school, Council Oak Elementary, to the mix. I’m not the type of person content on the sideline. The only way forward is to roll up your sleeves and make the change you want to see happen and drink lots of coffee to stay awake in the meantime.