One of my fondest college experiences has been my involvement with the AIAS. There are few architecture school experiences that can compare in terms of student engagement and breadth of character development. In the AIAS, I found long-lasting connections and I found my calling for leadership. Nearly a decade later, I can look back at the AIAS as the organization that got the ball rolling for my twenties.
In the Summer of 2010, thanks to the help of The City College of New York Architecture Alumni Group’s Carol Kurth and Venesa Alicea (former and current Presidents of our Alumni group), I was sent to the AIAS Grassroots Leadership Conference in Washington, DC, to obtain the tools necessary to reactivate the chapter at our college. It was my first introduction to other student chapters around the country, and also my first formal leadership training. Not only did I meet leaders from both local and remote chapters, I came away from the Grassroots Conference feeling impassioned and eager to make moves at my campus. I had learned recruitment techniques, the fostering of a strong membership base, and the cultivation of community within the School of Architecture.
During 2010-2011, our chapter had the opportunity to attend the 2010 Northeast Quad Conference at Syracuse University, AIAS FORUM 2010 in Toronto, and the 2011 Spring Quad Conference at the University at Buffalo. The City College of New York chapter also engaged in firm tours, architecture tours in New York City, social gatherings, networking events, and engagement with college Alumni and other industry professionals for career mentoring. The culmination of all this extensive participation with the organization created an enhanced and much more academically fulfilling experience for all members involved. The AIAS chapter relieved the stressful pressure of academia and helped mitigate concerns we might have on how to grow within the profession, post-graduation.
Since my AIAS days, I found my niche in green building. I earned my professional license and have gone on to become a Sustainability professional in Architecture for city government over the last seven years. The skills I learned early on through my membership with the AIAS included not only leadership but learning to create engagement opportunities, successfully networking and connecting people with similar interests. These have been dominant markers in my career path, and I am grateful to have had this student outlet to form and develop these priceless skills! My experience was personally transformative and helped build my character- I gained confidence while serving as chapter President, growing out of my shyness and finding a voice within this organization.
I urge you to use the AIAS to find your niche in the profession, while you are still in school: ask the right questions about career direction, learn about different specialties within Architecture, and explore the opportunities in both your city and nationwide. Get involved in leadership positions for your local chapter, because everyday tasks- event planning, fundraising, communications- will actually be fantastic for your resume and for any future leadership opportunities you may partake in.
Trust me when I say that there is no better commitment outside of your studio work than an investment in the world outside of your college education: the adventure that awaits in the profession of Architecture! It is easy to get caught up in model-making, but you’ll thank yourself in the long run if you diversify your college experience with one that will provide you professional strengths to last you a lifetime.
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