Press Room

  • Garlen Capita, Kimberly Driggins, and Patrick Morgan

Three New Board Members Energize PennPraxis and Build the Organization’s Capacity

PennPraxis, the center for applied research, practice, and engagement at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design, has appointed three new members to its Board of Directors who will play a vital role in building the organization’s capacity for design action and thought leadership to advance inclusion, innovation, and impact in communities that design doesn't typically serve. All three new board members—Garlen Capita, senior urban designer at WRT Planning and Design, Kimberly Driggins, executive director of the Washington Housing Conservancy, and Patrick Morgan, first deputy commissioner for strategy and engagement at Philadelphia’s Department of Parks and Recreation—attended their first meeting of the Board in June.

PennPraxis and its Design Fellows program, which is employing 84 advanced students and recent graduates of the Weitzman School on projects this summer, have grown dramatically in scale and scope in 2020, and the organization’s leadership sought out strategists who could expand the board’s thinking, ambition and networks.

Kimberly Driggins explained her decision to join the board in this way: “I see PennPraxis as an organization that is well positioned to lead important conversations around design justice that are essential in design education in our present day. As a center that does projects, PennPraxis can also be a leader for demonstrating a new way of doing this work, rather than it being limited to the classroom. I look forward to helping to shape this direction as a board member.” Driggins’ experience building and resourcing a new non-profit organization is also directly applicable to PennPraxis as an independent 501(c)3. 

WRT’s Garlen Capita previously served as the board president for the non-profit Germantown United Community Development Corporation and brings a strong understanding of the potential of community-based planning and design. Capita said, “I’m excited to engage with PennPraxis and help to shape the dialogue around how design can be a tool for leading systemic change and building resilient communities.”

Patrick Morgan engaged with cities across the country in his role as a program officer at the Knight Foundation before taking a leadership position with the City of Philadelphia. In volunteering for his new role at PennPraxis, he emphasized his desire “to work with the Board and the PennPraxis team in supporting high-level research, design, and engagement in service of advancing learning and practice in Philadelphia and beyond."

“The diverse strengths of these three leaders will leverage the strengths of a small organization that seeks to make a big impact,” Fritz Steiner, the Dean of the Stuart Weitzman School of Design, Paley Professor, and chair of the Board of Directors of PennPraxis enthused, “They deepen our expertise and will help us to continue to expand our work to a broad range of clients, especially those in underserved communities.”

PennPraxis Executive Director Ellen Neises and Managing Director Julie Donofrio are energized by the talent of these important new collaborators to “complement our skills and knowledge, and those of our fantastic board, so that we can break new ground together over the next two years.”   

Garlen Capita is a senior landscape and urban designer with WRT in Philadelphia. Garlen is a passionate advocate for equitable development and an experienced facilitator with a commitment to ensuring that planning processes are inclusive, authentic and reflect the community’s history and lived experiences. Her project work includes neighborhood and district scale reinvestment strategies, parks, streetscapes, and commercial corridors. Garlen’s passion in creating vibrant and equitable communities extends beyond her work as an Urban Designer to her neighborhood of Germantown where she has served as the board president for the non-profit Germantown United Community Development Corporation. Garlen currently serves as a commissioner on the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, and previously led the Urban Parks program for the Trust for Public Land.  Garlen earned a Master of Urban Design from the University of California, Berkeley, and Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture at Cornell University.

Kimberly Driggins is the newly appointed executive director of the Washington Housing Conservancy (WHC) and she has an extensive background in urban planning and real estate development.  Prior to her appointment at WHC, Driggins served as director of strategic planning for the City of Detroit’s Planning and Development Department, where she was responsible for citywide planning initiatives regarding vacant land strategy, cultural and heritage planning, neighborhood retail and equitable development. Driggins is a nationally recognized expert in urban placemaking and has creative placemaking projects in both Detroit and Washington, DC. Driggins currently serves as board member for Project for Public Spaces and is board chairperson for Gehl Institute. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hampton University, an Master of Public Policy from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and was awarded a prestigious Loeb Fellowship from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design in 2015.

Patrick Morgan serves as the first deputy commissioner for strategy and engagement for the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Parks and Recreation, providing leadership for various units within the department. Morgan’s work helps provide strategic direction and capacity and build resident-centered planning in support of high-quality, accessible programs and care of the built and natural environment. Previously, Morgan was the Philadelphia program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. He led Knight’s investment strategy in Philadelphia, enabling re-investment and connection of public spaces and partners to help foster more informed and engaged communities. Morgan previously held leadership positions in Mayor Nutter’s administration, including Chief of Staff to the Deputy Mayor for Environmental and Community Resources. Morgan earned a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Science in Education from the University of Pennsylvania and earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of Scranton.

PennPraxis, founded in 2001, serves as center for applied research, practice and engagement at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design. PennPraxis does projects that demonstrate the power of interdisciplinary design, art, planning, and heritage preservation to respond to the major challenges of the built and natural environments, and the communities that inhabit them. PennPraxis projects strengthen Weitzman as a school focused on high social impact design. We create opportunities "beyond the market" to help our students develop agency in the world, and we cultivate diversity among the next generation of leaders.

The University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design prepares students to address complex sociocultural and environmental issues through thoughtful inquiry, creative expression, and innovation. As a diverse community of scholars and practitioners, Weitzman is committed to advancing the public good–both locally and globally–through art, design, planning, and preservation.