Copy the Leader: Vincent Cunigan
Vincent Cunigan, a’13 g’16, is an Architectural Designer & Construction Project Manager at Burns & McDonnell.

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Jayhawks in leadership positions are everywhere you look, including through the Jayhawk Career Network. KU Alumni, in partnership with SumnerOne, is highlighting Jayhawk leaders who are models for others in their industries with our “Copy the Leader” program.

What do you do in your work?

As an architect, you tend to find your career trajectory heading in a “jack of all trades” direction. I wear several hats at Burns & McDonnell, as an architect I do mostly commercial architectural design. This involves me developing and executing both exterior and interior designs for buildings. Not only do I design but I also use my creative skills to coordinate with other designers such as structural, electrical, mechanical, and civil engineers.


The other notable hat that I wear is in construction project management. This is a unique role for typical architects as it allows me to manage the actual build of a project. On a day-to-day basis I can be managing construction schedules, budgets, subcontractors, and clients. This provides me the opportunity to be a more well rounded designer. At Burns & McDonnell we have deemed individuals with these skill sets as “Master Builders”.


One notable project that many Kansas City residents may be familiar with is REVERB apartments in the Crossroads of Kansas City. I had the opportunity to be on the design team as well as the construction management team. Seeing such a large project like this through start to finish was very rewarding. Leaving a mark on the Kansas City skyline will forever be a highlight of my career.

What are the qualities of a good leader?

I have always been a strong believer that amazing leaders are individuals that can strongly relate to their team. A leader shouldn’t just be someone who stands at the helm commanding a team but rather someone who is working hand in hand with their team, guiding them to success. This should include the good leader developing their team members, encouraging innovative thinking, promoting cross-cultural communication, exercising ethical practices, all while growing their individual skill sets and knowledge base.

How do you practice leadership at your job?

At Burns & McDonnell, I have had the opportunity to hold leadership roles very early in my career. My leadership style includes allowing open expression of ideas, providing a forum for growth and reinforcing that we are a team and will solve all design problems/achieve success as a team.

What makes a team or group successful?

In architectural design an exceptional team/group comes in the form of an interdisciplinary design team. This is when ideas are pooled towards a project outcome without division between different design practices (i.e. interior design, landscape architecture, electrical engineering and mechanical design) all in the spirit of keeping an open mind towards transdisciplinary influences in the field of architecture. The idea of harmonizing an eclectic group of individual thinkers into a cohesive group mentality is when we really start to see a truly successful team dichotomy.

How has your company adapted to the changes brought by the pandemic?

At Burns & McDonnell a design and construction management firm, one of our MacCulture Principles is “Safety First” so one can imagine the high level of attention our company has dedicated to the pandemic and keeping our employee-owners safe. This required us to immediately create a Pandemic Response Team that kept us all apprised of changes in local requirements, any health concerns and a well-established return to office plan when the time called for it. Even more impressive was Burns & McDonnell’s dedication to safety while continuing several construction projects nationwide. This meant heightened precautions to combat/eliminate the spread of the virus while keeping our clients projects safe, under budget and on time.

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