Dear AIAS Family,
As the 2021-2022 school year comes to a close, your current and future National Officers have news to share about the future of our organization! While this is something we’re all tired of hearing, it is important to acknowledge: the past two years have been hard. They have also been eye-opening. The AIAS has always been agile and open to change; the energy and passion of you, our members, empowers us to reshape our organization and adapt to the changing nature of our society. The mission of the AIAS is, “Advancing leadership, design, and service among architecture students,” but it is continually made clear that AIAS members are dedicated to reaching well beyond the community of architecture students to change the world for the better. If there has ever been a time for the AIAS to make changes to better support our members and enable them to better their communities, it is now.
In recognition of this need for change, the 2021-2022 Board of Directors and Governance Committee, with feedback from AIAS members, worked hard over the past year to define the organization’s current priorities and construct the 2022-2024 AIAS Strategic Plan. This plan is focused on two major priorities: to Stabilize and Pivot. These objectives highlight the AIAS’s need to recover from the pandemic so that the sole focus of our organization is once again to bring value, resources, and community to our members. The objective to Pivot takes a slightly different tone – it is important that the AIAS uses this time as an opportunity to change practices that needed updating even before the pandemic had begun. There are nine goals outlined in this plan; the goal at the focus of this letter is to “Reassess the relevance and impact of event structures.”
This is a big goal and will take time, resources, and dedication to complete. After lengthy discussions with the current and incoming Boards of Directors, conversations with chapter leaders all around the world, and a recent AIAS member Town Hall focused on the future of FORUM, it has been decided that the best possible way for the AIAS to pursue this goal is to separate FORUM 2023 into several smaller, virtual pieces of programming. This is a big decision with many implications; FORUM is one of the oldest traditions of the AIAS (did you know the first one was held in 1955? We had FORUM before we were called the AIAS!). Given the annual event’s significance to our organization, it is important to know why this shift is being made, and we have answered some initial questions about this decision below:
How will this help us “reassess the relevance and impact of event structures”?
Conference planning takes a lot of time and resources! Planning for both the FORUM and Grassroots conferences typically begins a year and a half in advance, creating a continuous cycle of conference planning in the National Office. Separating FORUM 2023 into smaller, more digestible, accessible events will give both the Board of Directors and the National Office the time and space needed to reconceptualize FORUM, and to ensure that all future FORUMs are aligned with the current needs of our members, which have changed drastically since 2019. This is a massive undertaking, and can’t be done at the national level alone; much of the next year will be dedicated to hearing from you, the members of the AIAS, to decide the best course of action from here on. An important part of this research will be led by a special committee focused on the future of all AIAS programming, a new iteration of the FORUM Site Selection Committee, which is outlined in the AIAS Rules of the Board and forms every three years. Members of this committee will be instrumental in deciding what FORUM and other AIAS conferences will look like in the future, so look out for the Committee & Task Force application that will be released at Grassroots!
What will FORUM 2023 programming look like this year?
We have several ideas for the programming that will make up FORUM 2023, some of them suggested by members at our last Town Hall! The first of these pieces of programming will be items that our Bylaws require to happen at FORUM: elections (it’s almost time to start thinking about running, by the way!) and the Council of Presidents Meeting. Both will still be held together in a “Governance Weekend.” Secondly, given your feedback on the Career Expo at FORUM 2022, we will also host an expanded Expo to give you the chance to network with firms and professionals from around the country and world. Discussions are ongoing for other new ideas, including a Committee Summit where AIAS volunteers serving on national committees and task forces will meet with one another to interact, have discussions, and work together to achieve joint goals that push our organization, education, and profession forward. Days specifically dedicated to design and service are also being discussed to align with our goals of advancing leadership, design, and service equally. Of course, we will also host webinars, trainings, panels, and more throughout the year, just like the amazing sessions we have at FORUM. These are just a few of the pieces of programming that will happen during the 2022-2023 year!
Is this a permanent change?
This is not a permanent change. FORUM 2024 will look different from any past AIAS event, and we’re looking forward to working with you to develop ideas for a conference that meets all the needs of our members, our organization, and our society in the current world. While we wish we could get everyone together in person for FORUM this year, and we are excited for the opportunity to explore new programming ideas for FORUM 2023, this will not be what FORUM looks like from now on.
How and when can we provide feedback?
This is just one of the many changes that your AIAS leadership will be working on over the coming year. Another will be working to make the Board of Directors, the National Office, and every level of our organization more accessible, accountable, and connected. This is your organization just as much as anyone else’s, and everyone in the AIAS should feel enabled and encouraged to make your voice heard, to share ideas and concerns, and to change our organization for the better. To this end, a list of ways to provide your feedback on these decisions and everything else related to our organization is below. The first of these is a link to an anonymous Google Form to provide your feedback on the FORUM 2023 decision specifically, and to tell us what is important to keep and what should be improved or added to the conference in the future. If you’d rather have a conversation, feel free to schedule a time to meet with your National Officers or email anyone listed below. Don’t forget that your Quad Directors and Regional Ambassadors were elected to talk with you and advocate for you at the national level!
How should we prepare for this now?
We understand that this decision will have a large impact on many AIAS chapters. The first and most important thing to do to prepare for this shift is to bring as many members of your chapter as possible to Grassroots this summer! While programming for the spring and summer of 2023 – including Quad Conferences and Grassroots 2023 – is still in the research phase, we know that Grassroots 2022 will be our greatest opportunity to get together as an organization for a while. Grassroots has traditionally been the “Leadership Conference” of the AIAS, but this year we want to emphasize that Grassroots is for everyone – not just chapter leadership! Whether you’re a Chapter President or a first year member, we want to see you in DC this July! If you have an internship this summer and you’re worried about taking time off for a conference, we encourage you to talk it through with your firm; many architects will be happy to see you go to an AIAS conference and recognize the valuable experiences you will have, training sessions you will attend, and connections you will form! For more tips on how to prepare for the coming year and for Grassroots check out the How Your Chapter Can Prepare blog post, as well as all the pre-Grassroots blog posts up on aias.org – including those outlining Grassroots Grants!
We know this decision will be met with a lot of mixed feelings, and we want to encourage you again to share those feelings with us. The AIAS, and architecture students in general, have been through a lot since 2020. This is the time for us to use the lessons we’ve learned and build something better. Our theme this year has been Evolve, and we’re confident that this is the next step in the evolution of our 66-year-old organization. Our leaders have made the hard decisions and are dedicated to following through on these hard decisions with hard work. Now it’s time for a Re-Union where the AIAS community can move forward together. Thank you for your support!