"I've been fortunate enough to design schools across the United States, and now in China, with DLR Group. "

Jim French



University of Nebraska

What's been your most rewarding project(s) while at your firm?

I've been fortunate enough to design schools across the United States, and now in China, with DLR Group. The delivery of education is changing rapidly in the K-12 space. Our definition of 'school' must change. A school must be designed to meet the unique local needs of a district and the students they serve. And those needs can be academic, program, fluctuating enrollment, or budget.


The Missouri Innovation Campus (MIC) in Lee’s Summit is perfect example design innovation to meet local needs. MIC is a progressive partnership between the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, Metropolitan Community College, and the University of Central Missouri. The instruction in the school is a collaboration between both industry and academic partners, focusing on learner outcomes and real-life workplace experience. Students from 16 to 30 are working in a classroom and workplace towards the same degree.


I am extremely proud of Fayetteville High School which we designed in collaboration with Marlon Blackwell, the new Joplin High School; Lee High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Kodiak High School in Alaska; Canyon View High School in Phoenix; and the design that is in progress for the new Compton High School in Los Angeles.


In Joplin, Missouri, after the 2011 tornado, I experienced first-hand the power of design. We designed an adaptive reuse of an abandoned retail big box into a 1,000-student high school in 55 days. The first day of school in August was instrumental in helping that community heal and return to normalcy. The design was recognized by the Association for Learning Environments with the 2012 James D. MacConnell Award, which is the most prestigious award for K-12 education design.


DLR Group had received the MacConnell Award in 2011 for the design of Maryville Getchell High School in Washington. This was the only instance of a firm winning the award in consecutive years and it really validated the influence of DLR Group design in the education marketplace.

Most interesting place you've traveled for work?

Huili School, Shanghai, China

What inspires you about your profession?

The passion, curiosity, and fearlessness of the kids I interact with during the design of a school.

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