One of the greatest benefits of joining an AIAS chapter is the opportunity to grow as a leader at many different levels and through a variety of different channels. At New Jersey Institute of Technology, our chapter’s Board of Directors is made up of 26 positions spread across several committees, one of which is Professional Development. I had the honor of serving as Professional Development Director during the 2016-2017 academic year, which I used as an opportunity to provide my fellow members with the network, skills, and resources needed to succeed professionally.
We saw firm tours as an essential part of our chapter events calendar and a key facet in achieving our mission as a committee. Not only are they a great way to engage members and give them a firsthand glimpse at what life in the architecture profession can entail, but they provide a great opportunity for firms to showcase their office and work environment to local students, many of whom will soon be looking for employment. Our university’s close proximity to New York City also allows us to expand our professional network beyond Newark and New Jersey.
This past year, we organized firm tours with Snøhetta, ODA Architecture, COOKFOX, SOMA, NK Architects, and Tobin | Parnes Design. These events generally consist of an office tour, presentation of current projects, and a conversation or Q&A session. That’s not to say, though, that all firm tours are the same – each firm’s unique style and personality made no two events redundant. Getting to meet Craig Dykers at Snøhetta and taking in the stunning Manhattan scenery from COOKFOX’s rooftop gardens are two of my favorite personal memories from the firm tours we went on.
Leading our chapter’s Professional Development committee also gave me an opportunity to work directly with professionals and build strong relationships between our chapter and the firms. The thought of organizing a firm tour as a student originally seemed intimidating, but it was actually quite simple – sometimes taking no more than a short, polite email to various firms in the area and hoping for a reply. The ones that do reply are usually quite eager to work with local students and organizations.
Firm tours have always been an essential part of our chapter’s mission to provide visible value to members and, in my current role as Chapter President, I will work to make sure they continue to be.