The Central PA chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) wanted to build on the national organization’s scholarship opportunities by adding one that was specific to the chapter’s 13-county region. They discussed the idea with community foundations within their service area and ultimately opted to work with The Foundation for Enhancing Communities in Harrisburg to charter the Central Pennsylvania Architects Foundation Fund (CPAFF).

After forming the CPAFF, their next step was to develop application criteria that would further their mission to encourage and support architecture students with ties to central Pennsylvania. Frank Dittenhafer II, FAIA LEED AP was one of the charter members shepherding the chapter toward their goal of offering architecture scholarships.

“We made it very flexible,” Dittenhafer says. “We wanted to make it a very open selection process that considered financial need and talent, and you had to be a resident in the 13-county area. You did not have to be attending a Pennsylvania institution.”

In fact, Tyler Holdren, a second-year Undergraduate Architecture Student at Syracuse University, received the third annual CPAFF scholarship last fall. Holdren is a resident of Millersville in Lancaster County, and impressed the selection panel – made up of AIA Central PA past presidents – with his commitment to community involvement.

Holdren got involved with the Syracuse chapter of American Institute of Architect Students (AIAS), and their community service program, Freedom by Design. He participated in the design and construction of an outdoor classroom for children with accessibility issues.
The total application for the CPAFF scholarship is a maximum of four pages, including a one-page narrative on why architecture is important.

“We wanted to get these very potent snapshots of applicants from our region,” Dittenhafer says, “and it’s been a very successful process.” The selection panel meets annually in late summer and each person speaks briefly about their number one choice to receive the scholarship. Dittenhafer leads a discussion to narrow the list of candidates down to a single award recipient.

Funding to underwrite the scholarships comes from various sources. The Central PA AIA chapter has been supportive with consistent contributions that come from lecture series and expo proceeds, annual fundraising, and individual gifts from chapter members. The fund, held at The Foundation for Enhancing Communities, continues to grow, and scholarships are disbursed from the interest while the principle remains untouched. The CPAFF was able to grant $450 the first year, then $550 the second year, and last year they awarded Holdren a $1,000 scholarship. The 2014 Central PA Architecture Scholarship will be for at least $1,000.

The fund’s balance is strong at nearly $25,000 and growing. Over time, the group intends to increase the amount of their awards, and/or give out several in a single year. Dittenhafer and seven other CPAFF members recently met in Lancaster and outlined a five-year plan commencing in 2015 to double the scholarship endowment to $50,000 by the year 2020.

“It’s been extremely rewarding to me personally,” Dittenhafer says, “and to the other members of the foundation, to be able to do this.” Though they have not awarded exceptionally large scholarships in their first three years, Dittenhafer says the support has enabled each of the recipients, in different ways, to do things they may not otherwise have been able to do without receiving the CPAFF dollars. And it has the added benefit of coming from established leaders in the field they’re pursuing.

“It means a lot to them to receive this recognition from the architectural community in the region where they’re from,” Dittenhafer says.

Applications for the 2014 scholarship will be accepted through June 30. Application and instructions are available at