Summer 2019 Internship Reflection

One of the most rewarding opportunities of an architect’s career is providing a valuable learning experience for young creatives who are passionate about Architecture. Over the years, McGranahan’s internship program welcomed students from all over the nation, providing them with solid hands-on experience.

At the beginning of June, we welcomed two bright additions onto our team: first time intern Leah Davis and second-year intern Innocent Muhalia. Both quickly became a regular part of project presentations, meetings, and construction site visits for a variety of projects including Lake Washington and Fife High Schools.

Hailing from Montana State University, Leah took a big leap and traveled 300 miles from her hometown to spend the summer as part of McGranahan’s internship program. In addition to studying Architecture, she is also interested in gaining a better understanding of the industry, developing a versatile skill set, and increasing her understanding of school design.

After completing her internship in August, Leah returned to MSU to start her Junior year utilizing her internship experience in her studies.

First-Year Intern Leah Davis

Originally from Kenya, Innocent is currently an Architecture student at the University of Washington pursuing his Bachelor degree. Having grown up with role models who study and practice Architecture, Innocent realized his dream of joining the field early on.

At McGranahan, Innocent quickly got involved in learning more about schematic design and how to communicate with clients and consultants. His weekly schedule ranged from visits to the Timberline Middle School construction site to sitting in on construction administration meetings and to participate in project team discussions. Innocent and Leah also utilized their studio experience in working with various tools to help put together our sponsored hole for PCS Structural Solutions’ annual Charity Putt-Putt Tournament.

Second-Year Intern Innocent Muhalia

I really enjoyed my time here,” said Innocent. “McGranahan has a comfortable and inclusive environment that promotes both individual and social growth. This helped me in developing professionally and personally.

One of the helpful things I learned was knowing how to ask the right questions. This came from client prep meetings I was in which helped me learn how to get meaningful information from the client. I also learned design and concept development through diagramming in a deeper aspect with the intent of explaining early and abstract ideas clearly.”

Moving forward, Innocent plans to finish his senior year at the University of Washington and looks forward to obtaining his architectural license and returning to McGranahan in the future. In addition, Innocent plans to volunteer for One Vibe Africa and other organizations focused on social unity and growth.

Leah and Innocent discussing ideas over their latest summer project

McGranahan has mentored students from universities and colleges as well as those from programs such as the ACE Mentorship Program of Washington and Tacoma Public Schools’ Next Move. Our internship curriculum was recently overhauled in 2018 by Matthew Bissen, our Director of Design & Research and Part-Time University of Washington Faculty. The program centers on developing our interns’ professional and personal growth beyond traditional job shadowing.

Our aim is to have interns work directly with mentors in all phases of the design process and gain a more experiential form of learning. The program covers four main areas:

1. Exposure to Design Practice – This is an opportunity for interns to experience the range of architectural practice by attending sessions of each of the following activities over the course of the program:

Part 1

  • Areas of Practice
  • Interview Prep                                                                                                     
  • Pre-Design Planning/Community Meeting                                                      
  • Design – Working Session and/or Planning/Community Meeting              
  • Technical – Tech Group Meeting or Focused Product Rep Meeting          
  • Construction – Construction Meeting and Site Visit                                     
  • Built Work – Team Leader Guided Completed Building/Site Visit

Part 2

This is an opportunity for interns to experience one area of practice in more depth through a longer time of exposure. They attend all working sessions/meetings for a chosen area of practice which they would like to learn more about:

  • Areas of Practice
  • Marketing and Strategic Planning                                                    
  • Technical Detailing & Construction Administration                                      
  • Learning Environments                                                                                      
  • Sustainability and Environmental Responsibility                                           
  • Project Management                                                                                          
  • Design                                                                                                                   
  • Operations

2. Defined Activity with Documented Result – Interns will work on a defined activity and or project which they will be instrumental in developing with a firm or project leader. This work will expose interns to an area of work within the firm in need of deeper or longer lasting attention. This is developed specifically for each intern to be able to achieve tangible accomplishment by the end of the summer and will serve as a product or knowledge for them to take from the program.

3. Team Participation – Interns will participate on a team as a team member to accomplish tasks commiserate with their skill level and team needs. This includes current projects that are in early planning/design phases.

4. Meaningful Contact – Experience meaningful contact with our professional and creative staff .

Each area allows interns to be involved in hands-on projects with educational facilities throughout Washington state.

McGranahan’s internship program builds upon a student’s experience each year to further develop their skills and knowledge. First-year interns start with a broad overview of the different programs in the firm and mastering the basics of day-to-day tasks. Second-year interns who have had the initial exposure to a professional setting can follow a curriculum determined by their chosen areas of interest. This opens doors to selected hands-on learning experiences on a deeper level of architectural practice.

Supporting young talent and nurturing their creative passions are crucial for their development. The more well-equipped students are, the more prepared they will be when the opportunity comes to join the field. We hope to help pave the way for success and allow our mentees room for growth and exploration as they continue their journey in Architecture.

For further information on how to participate in our internship program, please contact our Director of HR Emily Level at

Author: Stephanie Mai

Posted: October 14, 2019

Category: Culture, Craft, Passion