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AIA Iowa Presents College of Design Students with Excellence Awards

Friday, May 20, 2016  



Des Moines, IA (May 20, 2016)  The American Institute of Architects, Iowa Chapter (AIA Iowa) recently had the pleasure of awarding four Iowa State University students certificates and medals of honor for their accomplishments within the Bachelor and Master programs of Architecture. The AIA Medals are awarded to the student with the highest cumulative GPA in the accredited programs and the certificates are presented to those with the second-highest ranking. This year’s winners are: Alyssa Maristela, Undergraduate Medal, Benjamin Kruse, Graduate Medal, Ashley Danielson, Undergraduate Certificate, and Ebulimiti Aikebai, Graduate Certificate.

“The AIA School Medal Award is a reminder of the supportive community within the architectural profession and academics. The AIA has been a wonderful resource in my academic career, and I hope to become more involved as I move forward in my professional development. I am very honored to be recognized by this organization, and this encourages me to continue working diligently towards becoming a licensed architect and contributing to the design of engaging and impactful spaces for our society.” said Alyssa Maristela, of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, Undergraduate Medal winner.

“I'm most proud of this award because I kind of consider it a "hustle award." It is nice to be recognized by the AIA for overall achievement gained through the hard work that goes into every semester, and to know that all that the effort I've poured into my education has taken seriously and been appreciated, “said Benjamin Kruse, of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Graduate Medal winner.

 “I am truly honored to be recognized by AIA Iowa with 2016 AIA Graduate Certificate of Merit. I am tremendously grateful for the support from incredible faculties and fellow colleagues in the department of architecture during my studies. In particular, I would like to thank my academic supervisors, Pickard Chilton Professor Thomas Leslie and Professor Jason Alread for their continuous encouragement and support. It's been a true honor to work with these two great mentors along with others. Without their support I would not able to accomplish what I have accomplished today. I am very excited to join the OPN Architects in mid-July, an award-winning design studio based in Cedar Rapids. I can't wait to put what I have learned in school into practice,” said Ebulimiti Aikebai, Graduate Certificate winner.

 “Through the years I have spent in Iowa State's architecture program I have been presented countless opportunities and challenges, so it is an honor to end my education here by being recognized with the AIA Certificate. This award represents not only the dedication and passion I put into my work, but also the support and encouragement I received from classmates and faculty. As I look towards my future in the profession, I know these experiences will help guide me to a successful career,” said Ashley Danielson of Jefferson Iowa, Undergraduate Certificate winner.


The Iowa State University College of Design presented additional awards at the ceremony to architecture students.

The Central Iowa Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) Scholarship Awards are given to the top four teams of students that competed in an annual juried competition of fifth-year projects held at the end of the fall semester. The fourth place team included: Ryan Carter, Callah Nelson, Jenna Wiegand, and James Zeller. The third place team included: Ebulimiti Aikebai and Sean Wittmeyer. The second place team included: Brandon Fettes and Benjamin Kruse. The first place team was made up of Evan Jeanblanc, Alyssa Maristella, Derick Mauser and Alex Oshner.

Ryan Carter of Carlisle, Iowa said, “The CSI competition is an accurate representation of the relationship between practical architecture and the College of Design. It was rewarding to see a project like the one my team and I presented be honored in a competition that is for realizable structures. This shows me that there is a future for projects that push the boundaries of the traditional definition of architecture that is currently in practice.”

James Zeller of Hoffman Estates, Illinois said, “It is always an honor to be recognized for your work, but at this moment I cannot help but feel honored for working with a team as talented, intelligent, and dedicated to an ideal of architecture as ours; such that the board of judges had to create an additional place to accommodate a project that was so outside expectations. I know that this experience has encouraged the enthusiasm and ferocity of our team, and I know that we will all go on to play important roles in the future of our profession. My advice to those who fear being labeled as young and naïve is to speak slowly and clearly, but also loudly and with conviction, and with lots of hand gestures. Eventually, someone will listen.”

Brandon Fettes of George, Iowa said, “Opportunities to make a case for our work in architecture come and go, but to do so on a theater of prestige and professionalism is a great honor.  Receiving this reward is a product of the exemplary mentorship from my professors, the support of my colleagues, and has been confirmation that my dedicated work carries influence. This has given me confidence to move forward and stand out in profession of architecture.”

Derick Mauser of Storm Lake, Iowa said “It became even more clear to me through this project and in winning the CSI award that design excellence does not come easily. Diving into the design for a 10,000 person campus was new for everyone in our studio. This required a lot of research and in depth studies on office spaces. It is only when you start to feel comfortable that you are at risk of not creating design excellence. Having never design a corporate campus before, I don't remember ever feeling truly comfortable throughout the design process. I think this helped lead to our success. 


The Edward M. Strauss Jr. Scholarship for International Study is awarded to a full-time undergraduate student planning to participate in the College of Design Rome Program or other international study opportunity offered by the college of design. Amanda Hoefling of Marcus, Iowa received this scholarship. “Receiving the Edward M. Strauss Jr. Scholarship for International Study has truly been a blessing. It has enabled me to continue my education here at ETH in Zürich, Switzerland. Not only has it given me the opportunity to study architecture in an abroad setting but within another language, culture, and educational system. I could not be more thankful because this scholarship has opened up doors, and in return my eyes, not only for this semester but also for an international career upon graduating,” said Amanda.

The H. Kennard Bussard Award, presented by RDG Planning and Design, is awarded to a fifth-year student in the Bachelor of Architecture program who has shown outstanding ability. This year’s recipient was Kelsie Stopak of Omaha, Nebraska. “I am extremely grateful for receiving the H. Kennard Bussard Award. The This award will give me the opportunity to pursue my Masters in Environmental Design at the Architectural Association in London,” said Kelsie.

The Alpha Rho Chi Medal is awarded by the faculty to the graduating senior who has shown leadership ability, performed willing service to the department, and shows promise of real professional merit. This year’s recipient was Callah Nelson of Fargo, North Dakota. “I am honored to have received the Alpha Rho Chi medal this year, and I am extremely grateful for my professors, department and colleagues, who have pushed me and provided me with opportunities to learn and grow as a student. Most importantly, they have taught me the importance of taking action to create the education and discourse in which I situate myself within. Being located in the Midwest is an interesting and exciting opportunity, especially as students, because of the high level of design excellence within Iowa, however this is will not maintain itself. I encourage students to persist in taking action to continually bringing new ideas and discourse from outside into Iowa,” said Callah.

The ARCC King Medal is awarded to one student in each Architectural Research Center Consortium member school based on innovation, integrity, and scholarship in architectural and/or environmental design research. This year’s recipient was Amritha Rajan.

The Leonard Wolf Leadership Award is awarded to a third or fourth-year student selected by the faculty who has demonstrated leadership and service to the department and excellent scholastic achievement. This year’s recipient was Nicole Becker of Parkersburg, Iowa. “I am truly humbled and honored to receive the Leonard Wolf Leadership Award. I am inspired by this award and its past recipients to continue my devotion to the department of architecture and my studies to uphold the standards of this award. I cannot thank the department and my professors enough for their encouragement and confidence in me,” said Nicole.

AIA Iowa congratulates each recipient and looks forward to seeing their continued academic and professional achievements!

Since 1857, the American Institute of Architects has represented the professional interests of America's architects. AIA Iowa, headquartered in Des Moines, is a statewide affiliate of the national AIA. AIA Iowa members express their commitment to excellence in design and are proactive in the design of livable communities. Members adhere to a code of ethics and professional conduct that assures the client, the public, and colleagues of an AIA member architect's dedication to the highest standards in professional practice. For more information, go to or call 515.244.7502.

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For interviews or pictures, please contact Jessica Reinert at AIA Iowa, (515) 244-7502, or e-mail her at

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