From Farm-girl to Business Owner
Deb Kunce didn’t personally know the man who had the greatest
influence on her decision to become an architect. Then again, no one
did. After all, Mike Brady was the fictitious TV dad on The Brady Bunch.
As the eldest of seven girls growing up on a rural Illinois dairy farm, Deb loved watching the popular sitcom as a child. In high school, she took her first step toward a career as an architect by enrolling in a drafting class. Deb didn’t care that she was the only girl in the room. In fact, the experience foreshadowed her future accomplishments as a ground-breaking woman business owner.
In 2012, Deb became the youngest woman to begin an architectural project management firm in Indianapolis when she opened CORE Planning Strategies. In just two short years, CORE has exceeded its five-year financial goals, and Deb has grown her one-woman shop into a staff of six, primarily composed of smart working moms like herself. CORE’s portfolio of prestigious clients includes Purdue University, the State of Indiana Department of Administration, University of Indianapolis, City of Carmel, Indianapolis Public Schools, Hawthorne Community Center, Jameson Camp, and Christel House International.
Thanks to Deb’s leadership, CORE’s project management work has helped clients accrue more than $2 million dollars in energy savings. Her strategic guidance has improved clients’ organizational efficiencies, resulting in more effective use of their staff time and resources. Deb’s work has also helped increase access to early childhood and educational programs for youngsters living in poverty.
Deb’s strong track record of accomplishments pre-dates her launch of CORE. While employed at Schmidt Associates, Deb successfully led the program management of IPS’s $695 million dollar capital improvement program, squeezing every bit of value out of public tax dollars to ensure inner-city students had access to similar high-quality learning environments as their peers in the suburbs. As a result, the program was recognized with a National Project Leadership Award for exceptional leadership and management from the Construction Owners Association of America – one of only five commercial and public projects honored in 2005. The program also was awarded a National Qualifications-Based Selection Award and recognized with eight Public Relations Society of America and National School Public Relations Association awards.
In 2011, Deb was recognized as a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). She is one of the youngest women ever to receive this honor and is among only four women in Indiana to achieve this elite designation. She also was elected to the AIA’s National Board of Directors, serving more than 83,000 architect members nationally and internationally. For three consecutive years Deb was a Regional Director, and in 2012 was elected National Vice President, becoming the first woman from Indiana to reach this level.
Deb has accomplished all of this within a profession made up of just 18 percent women.
Deb’s leadership skills have been honored by multiple organizations, including the Indianapolis Business Journal, which featured her in its 2004 Forty Under 40 publication. That same year, Deb was selected to be a member of the Stanley K. Lacy Executive Leadership Association’s Class XXIII. In 2010, Deb was named a finalist for Indy's Best and Brightest by Junior Achievement of Central Indiana. Other honors Deb has earned are the AIA’s Edward D. Pierre Outstanding Service to the Profession and Public Award (2010) and the Juliet Peddle Award for Pioneering in Architecture (2012). Deb was chosen a finalist for the Phyllis Wheatley Award as part of the YWCA’s Salute to Women of Achievement in 2011. That same year, she was included in the Engineering News Record Top 20 Young Professionals, Midwest Construction.
As a recognized leader in the architectural industry, Deb is sought as both a speaker and panel moderator. In August, she moderated a Construction & Development Panel for Real Estate People and was a panelist at the Young Architect’s Forum Career Transitions Meeting. In March, she served as a panelist for the Indiana Construction Roundtable's quarterly training session. Deb has presented to a wide variety of groups, including the National Association of Independent Finance Advisors and the Indiana Association of School Business Officials.
As a new business owner, Deb was recently elected to the National Association of Women Business Owners, Indianapolis Chapter. With her expertise in organizational optimization, she is now an integral part of their Strategic Planning team.
Despite her busy schedule, Deb makes herself readily available to questions from young architects. From responding to an evening or weekend “text” to an early morning breakfast meeting during the week, Deb graciously assists those new to the field by answering questions about business management, work life, or setting and achieving professional goals.
Deb is a proud alumna of Ball State University, and for the past two years she has paid the registration fees for a group of BSU architecture students to attend the AIA regional conference.
Because she has an eye on the future of her industry, Deb has reached back to the high school level to spark an interest in architecture in students from diverse backgrounds. While managing the IPS Capital Improvements Program, Deb created an internship program that provided more than 60 IPS students jobs with hands-on experience in design and construction. As a member of the Indiana Construction Roundtable, Deb led the high school outreach committee for several years.
Deb Kunce is not only a gifted architect, she is an amazing woman. The Indianapolis community is fortunate to benefit from her talents.
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