The Learning Curve – How Chris Colby is Making School Fun Again

When he was a teenager, a career aptitude test informed Chris Colby, AIA, LEED AP that he’d make the ideal janitor. So naturally, he became an architect.

Colby excelled at 3D hand drafting and in his high school’s computer-aided design (CAD) course, but didn’t see how the skill translated to the architectural profession. It was his mother who recognized his talent and connected the dots; she organized a meeting between her son and two Principals from a local architecture firm responsible for redesigning their church, and they offered him an internship that kickstarted his career.

Now, Colby is making waves as the Southeast Region Leader for CPL’s K-12 Practice, strengthening the connection between architecture and learning for schools throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. With ardor and technical know-how, he stays busy partnering with clients to develop flexible project roadmaps that lead to innovational academic spaces, mentoring junior architects along the way.

Those who know Colby well know that he is passionate about outfitting young scholars with creative spaces that promote empirical learning and scaffold emerging teaching pedagogies. Designing centers to support advanced Career & Technical Education (CTE) for middle and high school students is one way Colby fulfills that passion.

CTE spaces bolster cross-curricular investigation with flexible layouts that combine factual and experiential learning. Encouraging students’ unique interests, these highly responsive classrooms entice learners to pave their own paths to academic success and future employment through the integration of modern, interactive technologies—including Wi-Fi connectivity, charging stations and augmented reality (AR) / virtual reality (VR) tools—and rearrangeable furniture that can adapt to meet evolving program needs.

“Growing up, I didn’t enjoy school—and I think that’s something a lot of people can relate to,” explained Colby. “Our team is trying to change that reality by envisioning inclusive educational environments that appeal to all children, no matter what their skills or hobbies might be. CTE schools promote hands-on learning for more diverse curriculums involving welding, the culinary arts, engineering, cosmetology and a host of other unconventional topic areas.”

After more than 14 years with CPL, Colby says he chooses to stay because of the firm’s steadfast commitment to continuously evolve and push beyond what’s seemingly possible.

“Each project poses unique challenges that strengthen our design muscles and open new doors of opportunity. We’re never willing to settle for the status quo, and that’s what sets our team apart,” Colby said.


Jenny Hasbun works with the marketing team as an Internal Communications Specialist in the CPL Poughkeepsie office. She is primarily responsible for working with leadership, business partners and internal teams to write and edit content that establishes organizational messages and keeps team members informed of big-picture developments. She applies her exceptional writing skills toward developing and tactfully implementing communications strategies that inform, inspire and engage people across the organization and beyond.

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