Detroit Mercy’s Detroit Collaborative Design Center names Co-Executive Directors

June 28, 2019

DCDC’s Charles Cross, Director of Landscape Architecture, Ceara O’Leary, Co-Executive Director and Professor of Practice, Christina Heximer, Co-Executive Director, Julia Kowalski, Designer and Project Manager, Josh Budiongan, Designer and Project Manager, Rebecca “Bucky” Willis, Designer and Project Manager and Toni Henry, Designer and Project Manager pose for a photo.University of Detroit Mercy’s Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC) will celebrate its 25th birthday with new leadership. Christina Heximer and Ceara O’Leary, AIA, are now the new co-executive directors of the DCDC.

“Christina and I are honored to step into these roles and continue to work with our team to collaborate with longtime and future community partners on neighborhood design projects and citywide initiatives,” O’Leary said. “We look forward to building on DCDC's strengths and making new connections moving forward.”

Heximer and O’Leary replace Dan Pitera who served as the DCDC’s executive director for 20 years and was recently named dean of Detroit Mercy’s School of Architecture.

“Dan dedicated over 20 years to DCDC’s mission and thanks to his direction DCDC has grown and shifted to forge stronger relationships with organizations and communities across the city,” Heximer said. “We look forward to working with him in his new role as dean to continue this trajectory.”

Heximer is a 17-year veteran at the DCDC and has served as associate director since 2007. Highlights of Heximer’s work at DCDC include helping to expand the center’s participatory design and engagement process, and working on a range of architecture and urban design projects.

“I am honored to be a DCDC co-executive director along with Ceara and to continue working with the DCDC team to build our relationships and partnerships with Detroit communities and educate future public interest designers,” Heximer said.

Ceara joined the DCDC in 2012 as an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow. She served as a senior designer and project director at the DCDC, where she has led collaborative community design and planning projects citywide. Ceara also served as the associate director of the Master of Community Development program at Detroit Mercy. Ceara will also take on the role of Professor of Practice in the School of Architecture, contributing to the role of public interest design in the curriculum and educational opportunities for architecture and community development students.

The DCDC is a multi-disciplinary, nonprofit architecture and urban design firm dedicated to creating sustainable spaces and communities through quality design and the collaborative process. The DCDC team includes Charles Cross, Rebecca Bucky Willis, Josh Budiongan, Julia Kowalski and Toni Henry and two to four emerging student designers, who work on projects with community partners citywide. Since 1994, the DCDC has partnered with more than 100 Detroit nonprofit organizations, community groups and philanthropic foundations towards fulfilling its mission.

The DCDC recently opened a second office at the Neighborhood HomeBase located on McNichols Road near Detroit Mercy’s campus, in addition to its office inside the School of Architecture.

For more information about the DCDC, please visit