Emerging Professionals

Responses to Emerging Professionals Questionnaire
Beyond certifying that recipients of AIA awards do not benefit from unpaid internships, how can AIA help reshape firms that have poor working environments for either emerging professionals or young architects?


The quality of opportunities for emerging professionals depend most of all on the level of activity in the profession overall. With fresh memories of the Great Recession, every architect and emerging professional has a deep personal understanding of this truth. AIA’s first responsibility is to attend to economic forces and trends which shape the prosperity of the profession. It has been two years since the publication of the AIA Foresight Report. AIA cannot afford an episodic approach. AIA leaders and members need to understand economy every year.


While there are a number of programs that celebrate exemplary firms for their support of interns, we live in the era of Angie’s List. More can be done to acknowledge the practices of progressive firms. Last year, the business community and government in the District of Columbia created the Smarter DC Challenge. Firms voluntarily report their practices from a list of about 200 best activities. For each, a score is awarded. Firms compete to be the smartest firms in the city.


As 2018 AIA President I will work with you to implement a program like this that documents best practices for employing and empowering emerging professionals. Firms that volunteer to report will become known for their progressive practices and have a significant advantage attracting the best people. Emerging professions will have a clear indicator which firms care about their reputations in this regard and the specific practices they employee. It will recognize the good firms and encourage better practices.


How can the Institute improve both outreach and integration with members, both Associates and licensed, who are pursuing non-traditional career paths? What value can AIA provide to attract and retain these members?


I believe in the “big tent” approach for AIA. Architects who work in the public-sector, teach, are contractors or developers, hold public office, or pursue careers outside the A/E/C industry, make contributions to the profession, extend its reach, and help our profession achieve its mission. In theory, current membership categories and policies could be sufficient to recognize everyone’s contribution. In practice, too many feel left out.


My experiences at AIA Potomac Valley have been informative. There has been a strong partnership between the University of Maryland School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation and AIAPV for decades. AIAPV is housed on campus in UMD’s 2007 Solar Decathlon house which the chapter purchased from the school. Professors and students serve on the Chapter Board. The university and chapter collaborated on the Greener Greenbelt Initiative, a three year community outreach effort supported by the AIA 150 program. AIAPV serves as an example of the best approach to outreach and integration: direct and meaningful engagement.


In 2014, I supported a resolution, adopted at Convention, directing AIA to explore opportunities to modify its membership policies and procedures to allow government agencies to directly support AIA membership for its personnel. This exploration addresses other “non-traditional” paths including architects with academic careers. The issues are complex and in some cases, like for federal employees, may not be resolved by changing AIA practices alone. However, the issues have been raised and AIA is working to identify options to make membership more accessible for architects working on “non-traditional” paths.


It is possible that the defining issue of the emerging millennial generation is income inequality, which also contributes to the lack of diversity in the profession. How do you see the issue of equity impacting architecture, the AIA, and emerging professionals in particular? What steps can the Institute take to bring people of all sorts into architecture?


Inequity and lack of diversity harm the profession in two profound and regrettable ways. First, inequity discourages architects and emerging professionals, people who have invested significantly in education and committed their careers to architecture, from making their greatest contribution. It is a tragic waste of resources. Second, lack of diversity starves the profession from the full spectrum of potential contributors, narrows its vision of possibilities, and shortens its reach. The profession is far weaker for it.


Thanks to the devoted and sustained efforts of many AIA members, including the Boston Society of Architects Women’s Principals Group, AIA San Francisco’s Equity by Design Committee, the National Organization of Minority Architects, and many others, equity and diversity issues have been elevated over recent years at AIA. In 2015, the Equity in Architecture resolution was adopted at Convention and, as a result, the AIA Commission on Equity in Architecture was established in December. These are encouraging steps.


2018 will be the 50th Anniversary of Whitney Young’s keynote address on human rights to the AIA Convention in Portland. As AIA President, I will challenge the Commission to launch a comprehensive program of specific, measurable, and time-bound actions that will resolve, not just improve, the systemic equity and diversity problems of the profession and AIA. Please read Young’s speech. If the architectural profession is going to fulfill its responsibilities to our society, we must be the change on equity and diversity.
 

© 2019 Carl Elefante