Our People

mark

Mark D. Dignard, AIA

Principal, Architect

I was raised in Portsmouth and was born only 2 miles from the INNOVATE office. Growing up, I always gravitated to anything associated with creation, design and building. When I was 12 years old, I gave up baseball and decided to focus on art and painting. My coaches wholeheartedly supported this decision! I first began to think about architecture in 7th grade and by the time I entered high school I had decided that was the path I wanted to take. I was accepted into the Art program at VCU and the Architecture program at Virginia Tech. I went to Blacksburg, toured the architecture building and fell in love with the energy and chaos of the studio spaces. I knew at that moment that I was a Hokie! I graduated with honors from Virginia Tech in 1990.

While at Tech, I began to realize my true passion for design and that it was something that actually came easy to me. I loved the process and spent countless hours in the studio which seemed more like fun than work. I believe that my career in architecture has been the perfect choice as it provides an opportunity to dream, create and realize projects that have impact on our community. I’ve designed a wide range of projects over the years from office buildings to boating resorts and I have found that the most gratifying projects are those that serve others. I think that is why our work in healthcare is especially rewarding. I am fortunate to have great partners in Paul and Kelly and an incredibly talented and driven staff. As a firm, we are fortunate to have so many fantastic clients that share our passion for quality design. Although our firm has been established for several years, I still feel like we are just getting started and that our best projects are ahead of us!
paul

Paul C. Garrison, AIA

Principal, Architect

Being raised in Chesapeake, I have seen this area grow tremendously over the past 48 years. I remember the farmland in Chesapeake now occupied by Chesapeake Square Mall, small two lane roads around town and the local family-owned stores that are all but gone. I feel that growing up in a quiet suburban area and seeing the continued development sparked my interest in becoming an architect.

My first real experience with the architectural world was at Western Branch Junior High School, where I took architectural drafting and design. From the first day of class, I was hooked. I wanted to be an architect. In the middle of my senior year of high school, I was accepted to the School of Architecture at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. It was one of the best days of my teen years. The years of architecture school helped define the type of architect I would become. There are many different types of architects; some architects specialize in design, some in details and some do it all. I am a part of the group who likes to determine how buildings are successfully built. I have spent the last 20 plus years with both large and small architecture firms, honing my skills and developing the most thoroughly detailed drawings in the area.

At INNOVATE, every day is a new adventure and always full of surprises and challenges. It’s that part of design that makes me stay up at night solving issues and formulating strategies. I also want to make sure our clients are happy and getting the product that they want. Clients are our business. It is my hope that every project exceeds the client’s expectations and creates something to inspire the next generation of local architects.
kelly

Kelly A. Moran, AIA

Principal, Architect

Growing up on a farm in Southern Virginia meant I was about as far as one could expect to be from “architecture”. However, I loved drawing, painting and helping my dad and grandfathers build and repair anything around the farm. I also had my heart set on attending the University of Virginia from the time I was five years old. During high school, the decision to become an architect was cemented through technical drawing and architectural drafting classes. The stars aligned after years of hard work and I was accepted into the School of Architecture at UVA.

While at UVA, I nurtured my love of architecture and began to connect to my roots by supplementing my architecture classes with courses in landscape design. It was during an independent study for a healing garden that the world of healthcare design was introduced. Since my graduation in 1997, my desire to provide spaces that positively impact the end users has only increased. While healthcare is where my passion is, I found my calling by living in the details and nuances of every project. I believe that every line we draw represents an opportunity to make a space have meaning. The project type doesn’t matter – it can be healthcare, daycare or a commercial office building. For me, the only thing that brings greater satisfaction than finding a problem and resolving it during a drawing review is seeing an end user experience one of the spaces that INNOVATE has created.
Jennifer e belman

Jennifer E. Belman

Office Manager

I grew up in Los Angeles, California until my family moved to Virginia in the 90’s. At a young age, I was very interested in music. I was 10 years old when I started playing the violin and guitar and continued playing until college. I was selected as Concert Master and lettered in Orchestra. I also participated in DECA competitions through my Marketing classes in which I earned my second letter. As my passion for music and marketing grew, I had one day hoped to be a voice on the radio or work in the music industry.

I graduated from Christopher Newport University in 2006 where I majored in Communication Studies and minored in Art History. After graduation, I started working as a marketing and communication coordinator for Busch Gardens and Kingsmill in Williamsburg, while at the same time working for the Promotions Department for a few local radio stations. I always thought a career in radio or music would be my path, but after many years I knew it wasn’t for me.

A friend of mine told me about a brand new Architecture firm that was looking for an office manager, so I decided to submit my resume. I interviewed at their one room office (in the “BBT”- Big Brown Turd) and was impressed by the energy and passion Mark, Paul and Kelly displayed. I was offered the position, so I decided to make the move to Virginia Beach where I became INNOVATE’s first employee. I was not familiar with the A&E industry; however, over the years I have really become completely immersed in the process. I often conduct pre-bid meetings and bid analysis, facilitate the electronic submittal review procedures and perform post construction punch lists which keep me very connected to the projects. It’s very rewarding to experience the process from the early stages of design through construction completion where the reality of our hard work is revealed. I never thought my Communications degree would translate to architecture nor did I believe that the company I worked for would feel so much like family.
brittney webb

Britney B. Webb, CID, ASID

Senior Interior Designer

As a young child, I often spent time on the weekends building forts out of sofa cushions and blankets with my two younger sisters. Each attempt at making a fort, I would try to create more rooms for us to hide in and push the limits on how tall I could make it. Another one of my fondest memories were the times I spent with my father designing and making my Halloween costumes every year. It was these early memories that sparked my creative desire, allowing me to excel through art and music classes in high school.

As my college career approached and I toured a handful of colleges and universities, I quickly identified Blacksburg, Virginia, as my home away from home. Still unsure of exactly what I wanted to do, I enrolled as an ‘undecided’ freshman at Virginia Tech.  After a year of general studies and a couple of classes in the school of architecture, I decided to apply to the Interior Design program. It was a perfect fit!  Interior Design allows me to have influence over the tiniest details, which then come together to create the overall experience of a space.  In addition to fulfilling the creative side of my personality, I took additional classes to satisfy my more technical side and graduated with minors in both Environmental Policy and Planning and Industrial Design.

  Anxious to complete my degree and make the transfer into the working world, I quickly found INNOVATE as the place where I could develop and grow as a professional. While I enjoy all aspects of a project, my favorite is the construction administration phase. Having the ability to be on site and to interact with the contractors who read and interpret our drawings, gives me a broader perspective how our ideas can be integrated into a built environment.
dan smith

Daniel Martin, RA

Architect

I grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as a huge sports fan following the Penguins, Steelers and even the Pirates!  In school, I always did well in math and science classes but I had more passion for creativity.  It was this combination of technical and artistic skills that would eventually lead me to architecture.  As a high school student, I entered and won a statewide architectural design competition two years in a row... from that point on, there was no looking back.

I was born into a family of Penn State Alumni and always knew that was where I wanted to attend college.  While at Penn State, I had the opportunity to spend a semester studying abroad in Rome, Italy where I traveled through Europe and gained a deeper appreciation for art, architecture and history.  I graduated from Penn State in 2010 with a Bachelor of Architecture degree and a minor in Architectural History.

After graduation, there weren’t many entry level architecture jobs to be had, but I was determined. I spent weeks sending my resume to over 650 firms and traveling up and down the east coast for interviews. After meeting with the partners at INNOVATE, I was so inspired by the passion they had for architecture, that I knew this was the firm for me. Fortunately, the feeling was mutual and I was offered a position the next day. I relocated to Virginia Beach and joined the INNOVATE team!

While at INNOVATE, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a diverse range of projects in all phases of design, detailing and construction administration. In February of 2014, I completed my Architectural Registration Exams and became a licensed architect. My excitement for studying buildings and creating unique spaces will continue to evolve and I will always appreciate the magic of seeing an idea come to life.
Marie-France Leopardi

Marie-France Leopardi

Project Assistant

I was born into the beautiful world of travel, being raised in both Europe and America. It is all I have ever known, which has given me the sense of adventure I carry in my life. I love trying interesting foods, listening to different music, meeting new people & appreciating architecture. All in all, life is about looking beyond what is right in front of you and experiencing diverse cultures. Living in different parts of the world has taught me flexibility and how to adapt to new situations. I needed this mentality when I got married and then my husband joined the Coast Guard! Life in the military has provided us the opportunity to travel & live all over the country. Having 7 years of work experience in customer service and administration, I was given the opportunity to work in New Jersey, Hawaii & California while we were stationed there.

I have always appreciated art, whether it was painting, sculpture, theater or architecture. I never thought I would be able to work at a place where I could combine my passion for both administration and art. When I moved to Virginia, that is exactly what I got. Working as a Project Assistant gives me a sense of accomplishment because I’m able to keep organized in the artistic and creative world of INNOVATE Architecture & Interiors. I work both behind the scenes and in the field always willing to expand my horizons.
Megan R. Vaughn

Megan R. Vaughn

Interior Designer

I have found my passion as an Interior Designer at INNOVATE Architecture and Interiors. I joined the company in 2013 and continue to be inspired by every project we tackle. I was born and raised in Newport News, Virginia. For most of my childhood through high school, I was highly involved in sports - swimming, sailing, gymnastics, and soccer. I learned that the only way to become a successful player, and team, is to work together to achieve your goals. The teamwork and leadership I learned is the foundation of who I am today. I have always been an extremely creative person and had an interest in art history, architecture and design. That interest in design soon became a passion.

I earned my degree in Interior Design from Radford University. I practically lived in the design studios - working day and night to complete projects. At times, that life became so stressful that I just wanted to break down and quit. However, I would always work harder when I felt like giving up which made the completion of a project the most rewarding and fulfilling achievement. In 2012, the Interior Design program at Radford University was listed as one of the Top 10 design programs in the US by Design Intelligence. This was a great achievement for us all! After graduating from Radford in 2013, I received a job with INNOVATE. I quickly learned that INNOVATE has the same passion and determination as I did in college - to work your absolute hardest to design a functional and aesthetically pleasing space for your clients. As I continue to grow with INNOVATE and develop my career, I know that I am in great hands and truly am learning from the best.
Megan R. Vaughn

Ashlee M. White

Interior Designer

I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas and attended Oklahoma State University’s Interior Design program, which is ranked in the Top Ten in the country. While there, I learned invaluable skills in numerous aspects of commercial design.

A summer internship during college took me to Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago where I participated in a sustainable lighting survey which was used to address money and energy saving opportunities on their campus. I also met my husband there, who was spending the summer conducting research in atomic physics. After graduating, I began my career in Dallas at an architecture firm which specialized in healthcare design. I worked on projects such as medical office buildings, freestanding emergency centers and tenant finish-outs of various medical practices.

However, love brought me to Norfolk and I brought my love for Cowboys – both the OSU & Dallas Cowboys as well as my passion for Interior Design to INNOVATE. With INNOVATE’s healthcare design focus, I knew my prior experience and background would transfer seamlessly. A firm like INNOVATE is exactly what I had hoped to find as I made my move to Virginia. I am surrounded by the best and INNOVATE feels like an extended family. My desire to grow and excel has allowed me to become an integral part of the team.
Yuzhou Peng

Yuzhou Peng

Architectural Professional

Although born in Qingdao, China, I have always thought of North Carolina as home. At the age of 5, my perception of highly populated spaces became that of vast greenery as my family moved to Raleigh. I was transfixed by all the surrounding wildlife and was more than happy to have tall buildings replaced by woodland. My curiosity of nature only made me more passionate about drawing. It seemed as though the more I drew the more I had a grasp for creative thought. My parents grew up in a rigorous educational system with emphasis on mathematics and science. Thus at a young age, they encouraged me to ask the whys and the hows. The older I got in school the more I became interested in the arts and sciences.

By high school, I had an opportunity to travel to Italy and Greece through an ambassador program. There, I learned how art, culture and history shaped architecture. I felt inspired by traveling and decided to pursue a creative career that allowed both reason and creativity. I enrolled in North Carolina State University to pursue a degree in architecture. Throughout college I gained the value of hard work, teamwork and collaboration. This was especially so after participating in a hands-on design-build studio. After seeing what we had been designing and building for 10 weeks, I felt ever more determined to become an architect.

Promptly after finishing my Bachelors of Architecture and minor in Environmental Science, I made the move to Hampton Roads for a brand new start with INNOVATE. I am excited to start my first step into my career and I look forward to learning and growing with the INNOVATE team.
jalany

Jelany Diaz

Interior Designer

I was born and raised in the Bronx, N.Y. I started drawing when I was only 4 years old. There was something about a blank sheet of paper and a pencil that made my imagination soar. At the age of 12, watching a friend do his drafting homework piqued my interest in interior design. It was then I decided to actively pursue a formal education in design. I applied to and was accepted into a specialized art high school that offered interior design. Being able to take these specialized classes further fueled my passion for design. I KNEW it was what I was meant to do.

After high school, I joined the Navy where my time with art and design was more limited. Although I did not work in an art related field, I stayed busy drawing to maintain my skills. As soon as my time in the military was complete, I resumed my focus on design. I attended New York’s prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology where I majored in Interior Design.

Since college, I have been seeking a place where I can be an integral part of a team. I longed for a place with similar goals to my own, which would allow me the opportunity to expand my knowledge and actively engage my passion for interior design. I am excited to continue my growth both personally and professionally at INNOVATE and look forward to all that my future holds.
 Katherine A. Nash

Katherine A. Nash

Interior Designer

Although I was born in Hampton Roads, I’m a Tennessee girl at heart. My mother and I moved to Gatlinburg when I was 9 and I promptly fell in love with the outdoors and Appalachian Mountains. Gatlinburg as we [and all the tourists] know it today exists because of a settlement school founded in 1912, which went on to later establish the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. Their regionally established handcraft program, and later the arts school, is one of the big reasons the arts are so important locally and why I never grew out of my childhood hobbies of drawing, painting, or anything else art related.

I received a full scholarship to FSU and chose to major in Interior Design – a decision I saw as a very practical solution to finding a creative career path – and minored in both art and math. After working for an architecture firm in Raleigh after graduation, I decided to go back to school, this time for Interior Architecture with a Historic Preservation concentration. I loved the hands on work we did with stabilizing old structures and learning old construction methods and, of course, the revitalization and re-use of historic buildings really spoke to me. After I graduated from UNCG, I moved to Richmond, Virginia. I struggled to find design or preservation work, but took Revit and 3dmax classes while working full time and continuing the job search. In the meantime, I fell in love with all that Richmond had to offer, especially its extensive park system, and really felt at home for the first time as an adult.

Fast forward four years and one move to Norfolk for a job with a scenic design company. In the last three years, I’ve been slowly re-entering the design world as well as establishing myself locally as an artist in Hampton Roads. I have found a warm, inviting, involved community with the Norfolk Drawing Group and feel like I’ve really grown my artistic abilities. The love of the outdoors is still very important to me and I try to sneak away regularly on weekends to the James River or Shenandoah for kayaking, hiking, and backpacking. I’m beyond excited to have joined the INNOVATE team and am looking forward to this last piece of the puzzle – my career – falling into place at long last.
Stevie Marie Wilson

Stevie Marie Wilson

Administrative Assistant

Growing up in the Midwest, in Indianapolis, IN, most of my family time was spent at racetracks or gathered around the table playing Euchre. So, when I went off to college it was no surprise I pursued a journalism degree and subsequently an internship with a small motorsports organization. After graduation from Indiana University, I decided I didn’t want to stay in the fast lane of the racing world, so I accepted a job with a local credit union. I worked in the finance industry for 8 years before finally making a career change to find something that would appeal more to my creative side. My family, which includes my husband and our two mini schnauzers, loves to travel and explore new locations. This love of traveling is good because we have lived in four different states during the past couple of years. Virginia Beach is my favorite, of course, because I am really just a typical midwestern girl who is loving living so close to the ocean and the mountains now! When I’m not exploring, I enjoy channeling my creativity into DIY home projects, cooking, and line dancing.

I am so thankful I found the INNOVATE team and am able to continue to grow professionally with them.
Tiania

Tiania Wise

Architectural Professional

I was born and raised in Northern Ohio where I studied Architecture & Environmental Planning at Bowling Green State University. My interest in architecture peaked at a very young age because of my desire to help my family. Growing up, we spent a lot of time in the hospital because my younger sister had a brain tumor. Thankfully, it was benign, but being in beautifully designed healthcare facilities definitely had an impact on my career choice. In addition to our time spent in hospitals, I spent most of my time helping my grandmother take care of my mother’s twin sister. She is both mentally and physically impaired. My grandmother constantly made changes to her home to better suit their lifestyle and I wanted to help through design. Watching my mother and grandmother constantly battle all of life’s trials only strengthened my aspiration to design for not only my family, but for other families as well.

After I graduated from BGSU, I married my best friend who decided to make a career in the military. This led us to travel from Ohio to Florida and now to Virginia. Due to our travels and being a military spouse, it was very difficult for me to start my career. There either weren’t any positions available or they simply didn’t want to hire a military spouse. Because of this, I was starting to give up, until I heard that there was an architecture firm nearby that focused on healthcare design. I quickly applied because this was literally my dream job! When I met the team of INNOVATE I could instantly tell that they were more than a team, but a family that focused on designing to help others. During my interview, I remember Kelly telling me how rewarding it was to design the lobby of a local hospital because she saw a young child, sick with cancer, smiling and laughing because of an interactive design that INNOVATE did. It took everything in me not to cry during my interview because I was so moved, but I knew from that moment that I wanted to be a part of INNOVATE’s team.
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