Alumni Spotlight:
Kelly Robichau '06

February 16, 2023

Name: Kelly Robichau
Hometown: Houston
Major: Bachelor of Architecture, Bachelor of Science in Psychology
Graduation Year: 2006
Employer: MD Anderson Cancer Center
Title: Manager, Facilities Information/BIM

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"Staying curious might open that new door or lead to changing the status quo. Pair curiosity with resilience, and you are good to go. Architecture has many paths to follow; stay true to your curiosities, and they can help lead the way."

Why did you choose the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design? What drew you to design?
I was always sketching floor plans growing up. Around second grade, I started drawing elaborate plans on the chalkboard in our backyard treehouse. The houses in elevation had around eight chimneys, so I went all out with no value engineering involved. I went through the whole LEGO phase, as well. After completing the Wonderworks and Hines College Summer Experience Design Program for high school students, my curiosity took off. I was exposed to studio projects, attended field trips to architectural sites, and, for the first time, was surrounded by a group of peers asking questions about spatial relationships and materials. It was inspiring to participate in the program. At that moment, I knew architecture was a profession I wanted to pursue.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time on-campus? Was there a particular professor who influenced your education?
Several professors contributed to my education in different ways. Celeste Williams and Rob Civitello set the foundation of curiosity during my first year. Without a doubt they had a huge impact. Bill Neuhaus, in our 4th year studio, asked our class if we could visualize three-dimensionally. He said, "In your mind, how many of you can 'put' yourself on top of that cabinet and look down on the class?" The skill of visualizing beyond right in front of you has enormously aided my career. Leonard Bachman introduced us to the complexities of a building yet strived for us to maintain purpose and meaning with our projects. His wife, Christine, was one of my psychology professors at UH. Together, they fostered a thought process that 'combined' my two degrees where I learned pratical methodologies. Psychology made me a better architecture student, and vice versa.

Andrew Vrana’s studio was innovative – new, different, and fun – and even included a class field trip to Marfa, Texas, providing a rich experience for us as we began our architecture careers.

Top to bottom: Interior views of the hines global headquarters in downtown houston

What does a typical day look like in your job? Do you have a particular design or business philosophy?
Having just started in June 2022, my MD Anderson Cancer Center role is still pretty new. For the past few months, I have been in the information-gathering phase assessing the current state of the Facilities Information/BIM division and conducting 1:1 meetings with leadership to understand their scope and department responsibilities.

I was brought on board to help implement BIM workflows and standards aiding facility and asset lifecycle maintenance. A critical piece has been to pace myself and establish a solid foundation to build from, and move forward from there. It has been incredible to be a part of the team and I look forward to the work ahead.

Before MD Anderson, I worked at Kendall-Heaton Associates (KHA), an architect-of-record firm, for 15 years. KHA was my first job out of school. After years of project support, I became a Project Manager for commercial and high-rise projects. Most of my days were spent working in Revit, coordinating with design and engineering consultants and other project stakeholders from design development through construction administration. I am very grateful for the expert mentors I had over the years at KHA. With such immense technical knowledge and experience, they got us through some of the toughest challenges. I learned that tough jobs allowed for the most professional growth.

My business philosophy is to lead by example and always show genuine appreciation.

What is one career accomplishment of which you are particularly proud? How do you feel that the College prepared you for this?
The College prepared me to work at a firm right out of school. I had a baseline skillset and a portfolio to get me in the door. Upon graduation, I had three offers, one of which was at KHA. My skillset helped to interpret construction drawings and, later, create them – starting with my first high-rise project, Devon Energy Headquarters in Oklahoma City, and then Northwestern Mutual Headquarters in Milwaukee. For my professional journey, these defined what it meant to have high design standards and high-quality construction documents.

More recently, I served as one of the project managers for the new Hines Global Headquarters in downtown Houston. It was my first interior architecture project (verses Core and Shell). It was very detail-oriented; coordination with contractor was key. Very proud that I could contribute to this important, and beautiful, project.

I am most proud of my work on the Golden State Arena Complex. This was the first stadium project for KHA, so to be a part of it was quite an incredible opportunity. The team had to pull together and meet tremendous deadlines. We managed multiple Revit models at one time. This project was a tough one, but I grew the most coming out of it.

Top to bottom: photos from a site visit to the golden state arena complex during construction

What is one valuable lesson you learned during your time at the Hines College?
Communication. The Hines College fostered a culture where doors were open, professors were accessible, and classmates almost always worked alongside you, no matter the hour, exchanging ideas. The ability to communicate is a skill that begins way before you step into an architecture firm. Early in my career, I noticed my supervisor’s emails were typically around three sentences. He would use concise sentences, yet he could do so because his understanding of the issue was clear. I think there is something important about brevity in communication.

Another lesson I learned was that the people at the Hines College are special. I met my husband Emilio in the computer lab! I was a fourth-year undergraduate student, and he was getting his masters. This past December, we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary.

What is a piece of advice you would give to current architecture and design students?
Stay curious! Sometimes curiosity leads you to the hard questions. Staying curious might open that new door or lead to changing the status quo. Pair curiosity with resilience, and you are good to go. Architecture has many paths to follow; stay true to your curiosities, and they can help lead the way.


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