Each year the candidates for National AIA office are asked questions on behalf of the National Associates Committee(NAC) and the Young Architects Forum (YAF). These are my responses:
1. What are specific examples of things you have done in your own professional activities and in your local component to build future leaders and promote active participation in the AIA by Emerging Professionals?
I’m a unique candidate in this year’s election as I’m the only one who fits into the “emerging professional” label. I hope to provide equally unique responses
AIA Colorado hosts the Young Architect’s Awards Gala each year. I was on the committee from the early years in 2002 until 2010. I’ve also served five years on the AIA Denver board where I’ve been a strong advocate for the issues affecting students, interns and new architects. I’m a frequent juror and speaker at events at the University of Colorado at Denver and with their AIAS.
My firm, EVstudio, was founded when I was only 29. One of the things that really sets us apart is a belief in challenging every member of the staff to grow as well rounded professionals. In some firms you have a hard time getting all the credits for the IDP, but with the variety at EVS it’s almost automatic. In addition to design and production, we engage all of our architectural staff in marketing, fee setting, contract writing and direct client communication. We also have our architectural interns participate in our engineering work to give them a better understanding of that critical piece.
2. Given the current status of the repositioning, what role(s) do you see emerging professionals playing in the leadership and future of the AIA? What are a few specific examples of these roles?
For my own sake, I have to say it would be great to see an emerging professional elected to the AIA National Board as Vice President. I’m running because I believe that the people most affected by the AIA of the future are those of us who will see AIA200. We need the AIA to be strong and to be an advocate for our long careers rather than a footnote.
The old approach to promoting EP diversity is to create unique positions for under-represented groups on boards. This approach is totally wrong. Instead the roles need to be reformatted to be appealing to those of us who are early in our career. We are busy people with new careers, children, student loans and expenses that require our attention.
I propose that we reformat boards to be smaller and more efficient. We have fewer meetings and use technology to have the almost no meetings that you must attend in person. We place more of our responsibilities on the staff who are able to provide continuity and expertise in their field. Then we eliminate programs that are not providing value and finally push to be on the leading edge of technology.
3. What do you perceive to be the cultural and generational differences between Emerging Professionals’ and your own generations within the profession? How have you encountered these differences, and how can the Institute begin to bridge the gap particularly at the leadership levels of the organization?
As an emerging professional myself I’d say that the generational differences are fairly slim for me. A great thing about being a young firm owner is the variety. I’ll communicate with clients who are 40 years older than I am and don’t do email and then turn around and communicate with a 15 year-old who wants to tour the office for career day and set it up entirely by text message.
The question asks how we “begin to bridge the gap.” One thing about my generation is that we’re ready to jump in now and embrace the change. Typically we do not participate in organizations that come across as stodgy, bureaucratic and slow moving. The AIA needs to be reformatted with flexibility and an ability to respond to change and it needs to be done quickly. To get young people involved we need to forget about the next round of surveys and take decisive action.
The big question is if the other generations are willing to take a leap of faith with us. Traditionally the route to success in the AIA is through tenure, my campaign is at odds with that and asking the voters to vote for fresh ideas.
4. What changes do you think need to be made in education of new architects in school to prepare them for effective careers in Architecture today?
As an employer one of the biggest challenges that I have is the lack of experience with many graduates. Obviously this has been aggravated by the lack of openings in the last five years. When I was at Georgia Tech, one of the best features of the education was the co-op program. For over 100 years Tech has put students into structured job experiences where they earn credit and the employer makes a contribution that largely offsets tuition. Many of my classmates in the M.Arch program used this to program to gain experience, make industry connections and pay for their education.
At EVstudio we are a fully integrated AE firm with architects, engineers, surveyors, planners and landscape architects. The future that I see is a multidisciplinary future. Architecture schools need to engage the engineering disciplines throughout the process. Not only is it great for the architects but the bonus is we’ll get better engineers.
It is also important that we keep options open for aspiring architects who want to take less traditional approaches. I favor rigorous requirements for licensure but many fantastic people come to architecture as a second career and cannot afford to spend several years on school.
5. Emerging professionals feel that career advancement is an important issue for the AIA to focus on – how do you intend to address this need?
At the local level, chapters need focused programs to help interns complete their IDP and the ARE. That is a minimum expectation for every chapter. I’ve also advocated that we need good reciprocal mentoring programs pairing professionals of all experience levels so that they can learn from each other.
At the national level, the AIA should be an advocate for the aspiring and new architect with groups that we can’t influence as individuals. The number one item that I hear from emerging professionals is complaints about the cost of NCARB and their rules. Every year I pay a $225 maintenance fee to NCARB and a $400 fee to have them email my record to a new state. The AIA should be advocating for us in these situations.
It is also important that we recognize our firms that are focused on the development of our next generation. Generally speaking, AIA awards are based on design. We should also be recognizing firms that have training programs, provide advancement opportunities and develop sustainable business plans that keep people employed during market downturns. We need to build an AIA culture that is focused on developing the next generation of architects.