February 13, 2020

At FORUM 2019 in Toronto, we were joined by 8 FORUM Travel Scholarship Awardees! We asked each of them to tell us about their time at FORUM, and they did not hold back. If you weren’t able to join us at FORUM this year: check out what you missed, talk to your Quad Director and other chapters about fundraising ideas to get you and your chapter to FORUM 2020 in Chicago, and then apply for the FORUM Travel Scholarship in the Fall semester!

December 29th

By: Sarah Curry and Margaret Lewis 

The first day of FORUM was quite the whirlwind! We were introduced to the theme, CONTRA-, and got to meet the Planning Team who had been putting together this fantastic conference for over a year now. We heard from two keynotes: Anne McGilroy and Craig Applegath, who challenged us to live intentionally and address the critical climate issues facing us. While it was a heavy and honest look at the decade ahead, most of us felt empowered, motivated, and capable of doing the hard work for vital change – not because of what we’ve been trained to do, but because of who we’ve been training with: 

“The only really key thing about my experience with AIAS, and why I was so appreciative of winning the scholarship, is [that] I have more friends in AIAS outside of my chapter than I do inside of my chapter, and these conferences are the only way I am able to see them outside of Skype-ing and text messages and phone calls. When you meet with people who think like you do and have the same interests, the light inside yourself and the light inside the other person sparks up again. I truly believe that AIAS conferences make individual chapters better because we can feed off of each other and grow each other – and I just love this organization! Learning everything I did at this conference made me well-equipped to take on this year and push me to decide to become more involved nationally and to try and become an advocate.” – Margaret Lewis

December 30th

By: Francisco Rueda

“… This morning, I attended the workshop called ‘Once upon a time in a land of design, an architect decided to be a changemaker…’ The workshop had 4 very distinctive analytical steps to pay close attention to: Process, Output, Outcome, and Impact. I also learned the difference between Equality, where everyone gets the same treatment; Equity, where everyone gets treated according to their specific needs; and Liberatory, which is when the root cause or barrier is addressed.

After another workshop, we went off walking to get lunch at the St. Lawrence market. On our journey we encountered various beautiful buildings and a street performer with a lovely acoustic guitar and music. On our way back we took some photos of the Allen Lambert Galleria with the amazing roof by Santiago Calatrava.

In the afternoon General Session about Localization & Globalization, Megan Torza explained the percentage of licensed Architects by gender and ethnicity showing that women and African American and Latinos make up a very few percentage of the whole. She also explained public engagement 101 in 4 steps: 1. Bring everyone together who is involved, 2. Agree on what’s going on and what goal wants to be achieved, 3. Try out some ideas, and 4. Collectively make a decision.

Once the General Session ended, I decided to help out at the booth Ryerson’s FBD Program had set up to put together handmade blankets and pillows for the homeless in Toronto. This was an exciting experience where I made multiple friends and even put our school, Prairie View A&M at 3rd place in the competition for most blankets made.

My favorite event of the day was the #FORUMAfterDark Trash Sculpture Competition! We began with brainstorming and once the time set off we had less than an hour to design and build this ‘deconstructive dog’ made out of the provided materials and supplies. The six of us divided the necessary tasks in order to achieve our final result, and we managed to win 1st place! This was very exciting not only because this competition brought our team closer together but it also promoted our school Prairie View A&M University!”  – Francisco Rueda

December 31st

By: Adele Doneen and Daniel House

“This morning, I woke up in a hotel room in downtown Toronto with three of the most inspiring, driven, and thoughtful people I have had the honor of meeting in my time at Washington State University. While mapping out our day and, of course, helping our president, Alex Geisen, run through her speech for West Quad Director a couple more times, I was thinking how far our chapter has come this year. We have grown by pushing boundaries, and we have no intention of slowing down. As I sat there, realizing the future of architecture were all downstairs anxiously awaiting the 9:00am sessions, I felt whole. These are the movers and shakers, and the people that you WILL hear about in the future.

I worked the registration desk from 9:00am-11:00am as a volunteer where I met and checked in some of the amazing speakers that were presenting. I also ended up being able to attend Vincent Hui’s portfolio workshop. I have not learned about this very important topic in school, so I was very curious to see what he had to say about it. While listening, I could not take notes fast enough. He was filling the room with incredibly useful information that I would not have known otherwise. I took so much away from this short 75 minutes. I have something to bring back to my classmates in Washington that will help us all improve as a graduating class.

On this topic- the most amazing thing about FORUM to me was the wealth of knowledge and the willingness to share. Everyone (whether it be students, speakers, guests, etc) wanted us to succeed. They saw our value as the future, which I feel can be easy to overlook in the youth. They encouraged us, taught us, and learned from us.

The keynote speaker during the General Session was Sharon Vanderkaay. As she began to talk, my attention was immediately grabbed. She started to talk about human behavior, which I feel can be forgotten about in this field. As she was presenting, I was connecting the dots between what she currently does, and where I would like to end up. I am pursuing a dual degree in architecture and psychology, and feel the human is what makes the built environment. I attended her meet and greet and chatted with her a lot about the correlation.” – Adele Donnen

“How did I start the last day of 2019? By waking up in Toronto and cringing as I watched my best friend, Zac, make toast using the hotel room clothing iron. After our hearty breakfast, we decided to attend a seminar. We chose to listen in on the ‘Building over Buildings’ presented by Dermot Sweeny. The presentation showcased how Sweeny’s firm in Toronto has been designing buildings that not only connect to pre-existing, but that also extend upward and hover over those buildings. Sweeny also explained the importance of POPS, privately owned public space, and how they are great spaces for people to get out of the elements or have meet-up places.

After lunch it was time for quad breakouts, which are a great time to interact with students who live in your region and discuss the similarities and differences between your chapters. My friend Julia and I presented our bid for the South Quad Conference to be held in the fall of 2020. I am not a fan of public speaking, but it was a great experience to be able to share what we have planned. We then broke into small groups and mixed with students from different chapters and discussed events and projects we have all done. It was interesting to learn what other chapters have been successful doing or what might not have been as successful and being able to take that back and utilize what I heard with my chapter. 

The General Session started soon after the breakouts. South Quad was up for roll call and I was excited to see what my chapter had made to present at FORUM. Maybe I am a little bias, but I think Oklahoma State had the best video… After the keynote started the candidates long speeches, the highlight from this was probably when my chapter president, Scott Cornelius, walked onto stage with his hotel room bath towel, which was a reference from him spilling water the first night during his short speech.

Later that evening was the main event, the Beaux Arts Ball! This is one of the greatest ways to end the year. You are able to let loose, dance around, shake what your momma gave you and just have fun with your friends. How many of your friends can say they ended the year in a different country?” – Daniel House

January 1st

By: Quinn McFadden and Alex Geisen

“Surprisingly, getting up today was not as hard as I thought it would have been after ringing in the New Year at the Beaux Arts Ball. Celebrating with reconnected friends from previous conferences and so many new ones from the last couple days, is a reminder as to why these conferences are so special.

As soon I was up and ready to go, I headed down to the Council of Presidents Meeting, where other candidates and I reminisced about the week, all to try and stay calm as the voting was happening in only a matter of minutes. No matter how we tried to distract ourselves, nothing seemed to work as Past President and Elections Chair Amy Rosen approached the podium to announce that there was a runoff in three of the four quads, and soon after, another one was announced and the candidates were asked to leave the room. 

Come the private reveal, it was surreal to be surrounded by some of the strongest leaders within the organization as we all slowly found out who would continue on the legacy of the AIAS through the Board of Directors. While I knew probably wasn’t going to win the election this year, I knew that the Midwest Quad was in good hands, but even better, I could finally relax for the remainder of the conference. No more back-to-back candidate meetings, no more speeches, and no more stress, it was finally time to celebrate our accomplishments and ring in the New Year.

As I stopped by my room to get ready for the last general session and the rest of the night ahead, it finally set in just how great the week had been. I had gotten up the courage to speak in front of 500+ people, toured Gensler and got amazing feedback from some of their head architects, explored the 6ix, made incredible friends, bid for a quad conference, discovered we can prevent the end of the world if we just plant a trillion trees, answered tough questions, and ended the year on an incredibly high note with a strong closing speech and a roaring party, and there was still one more night left.

To end the conference on a happy note, we returned to the hotel where we tore up the dance floor with our favorite AIA Liaison during the silent disco. Today was not just a good day, today was a great start to a new year, and there is no other place I would have rather spent today with then the AIAS.” – Quin McFadden

The General Session that night included updates, ROLL CALL, and my personal favorite, the Young Professionals Panel Discussion. Andrea Ling, David Campbell, Rachel Law, and Naveed Khan all had incredible words of wisdom to share. They were all at different places in their architectural paths which made for riveting answers to questions Past President Amy Rosen prompted. A few of the key take-aways from the panel were to “empathize with people that don’t look like you,” and find the firms that you believe in and recognize the change you can make. The discussions left me speechless and inspired.

At the end of the last General Session the next National Board of Directors was revealed! The crowd was cheering, tears of happiness were shed, and a new group of leaders were announced onto the stage. I am grateful for the opportunity and financial assistance the AIAS Travel Scholarship has provided. Without applying I would not have gone to FORUM, I would not have ran for a position, met an incredible group of individuals, been able to volunteer with the AMAZING FORUM planning team, and had the opportunity to be elected the next West Quad Director.

I will see you all at the next FORUM, in CHICAGO!” – Alex Geisen


**Content was taken and edited down from FORUM Travel Scholarship Awardee accounts of their time at FORUM. The AIAS thanks the Awardees for their thoughtful retellings of the conference. If you are depicted in a featured image and would not like to be, please email mailbox@aias.org