Contributed by:
Carolyn Mulligan

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Emerging Leaders Program - June Class

June’s ELP class was all about diving deeper; deeper into understanding effective mentoring, and deeper into experiencing the depths of Fair Park, the focus of our class project for the 2016 year.

June’s ELP class was all about diving deeper; deeper into understanding effective mentoring, and deeper into experiencing the depths of Fair Park, the focus of our class project for the 2016 year.

Our class was held in the Tower Building, designed by George Dahl in 1936. The building is recognized by its prominent 179 foot tall tower, topped with a glorious gold bald eagle, and by its bas—relief carvings at the base, depicting Texas pioneers through history.

While you may correctly expect a group of architects to ‘ooh’ and ‘aahh’ over the Art Deco architecture of Fair Park, most of us had, in fact, never even been inside this building before. We were amazed at what we discovered.  The building’s interior helped set the tone of discovery and reflection for the rest of the class.

Our Class Project for the 2016 year involves working with Fair Park to design a children's park along with collecting information on what will make the park invaluable to the community and promoting buzz for the future park.  Having the class in this location allowed the group to get a better understanding of our site and to meet for the first time as a group with our client.

We invited Celia Barshop, Sr. Park Manager for Fair Park, and our client, to speak to us about the project needs and about the upcoming 80th Anniversary Celebration event the park hosted in June.  She gave us a brief history of the park and shared with us her thoughts on what would make the park successful as a year around park instead of just a destination during fair time.  She spoke to us about our role for the Celebration event which included reaching out and collecting surveys from attendees so that we could get a better understanding of the wants and needs of the community and incorporate those thoughts and ideas into our design.  Celia’s drive and enthusiasm were infectious and it was clear the group was even more excited about the possibilities this project could hold.

Our discussion with Pete focused on the complexities of moving into a new job and also managing unwanted or unacceptable performance.  We looked at The Fran Sullivan Case and discussed how with every change comes a whole new set of responsibilities and challenges.  Where we may exceed in one area we may fall short in another and as leaders we need to recognize our own shortcomings and of those we manage and effectively communicate the best resolutions to the problems at hand. 


Our guest speaker was Mark Gerner, owner of Response Able Design (RAD), a multidisciplinary design studio. Since our class, he has transitioned into a role as President of LSC Design, also a multidisciplinary design firm, based out of York, Pennsylvania.

Mark presented us with a new lens with which to look at ourselves, and with which to understand the “why” behind the way each of us act and make our daily decisions. He calls this process of discovery “Connect to Cause”. The intent is that the better we are able to formulate a clear understanding of who we are at our core and an understanding of what truly motivates us, the better we can position ourselves within companies, volunteer organizations, teams etc., and make decisions that help us stay true to our core purpose. When we are also able to understand our team members in that way, mentorship takes on a whole new level of effectiveness.
We were tasked to ask ourselves the following questions: What experience do I personally Cause for other people? In other words, what experiences do people have when they are around me? How is this experience different than experiences they have with other people?

Mark also asked us to consider the question, “When do you get lost in the moment?” Put a little differently, when do you lose track of time and become completely enveloped in what you are doing, oblivious to the passing of time? This response gives us clues to what our ‘Cause’ is.

We went around the room asking a few people what their responses were. One person’s response was riding their bike around Dallas trails, and drawing detailed wall sections (not surprising from an Architect!) These two items are seemingly unrelated, but as Mark started to ask more questions about the “whys” of each experience, interesting conversations began to unfold.  We discovered this person’s hyper attention to detail was a common thread throughout these experiences where he loses track of time (from noticing the leaves on the trees as he passes them on his bikes, the feeling of wind on his face, to assembling portions of a building from the ground up that create a beautiful and delicate balance of elements. All the while, exploring, searching, discovering). The conclusion after this discussion was to show that this person would perform at his natural best, and would be most self-motivated, when he is given the freedom to explore in this detail. When we understand our Cause, we understand what types of tasks, jobs, etc. would provide most satisfaction and would propel self-motivation, which can be applied to practical things, like “What volunteer organization would be a best fit for me”, or “What role on this project team would I enjoy the most?

Knowing our team members or co-workers on this level can help us to better plan out project teams by assembling a group of people with a variety of “causes”. If we have the ability, it would be best for team members to be given tasks based on these natural inclinations. It also gives us a shared vocabulary with which to use as we mentor others.


At the end of the class we took a walk over to the future site of the Children’s Park.  As a class we spoke about the boundaries of the site and general overall thoughts on the project.  We then broke into 2 groups to discuss the finer details; one group for the design and execution of the Spark Park and the other group for the conceptual design of the Children’s Park.  Afterwards we headed over to Craft and Growler for a frosty beverage, some good conversation, and to escape the rain.

Written by: Luke Archer / Carolyn Mulligan / Erin Hackler