May 9, 2023 by 2019-2020 Equity & Diversity Task Force, 2019-2020 Sustainability & Resiliency Task Force, 2020-2021 Council of Global Representatives, 2020-2021 Learning & Teaching Culture Advisory Group, 2021-2022 Professional Development Advisory Group

Grassroots is the AIAS’ annual leadership conference that focuses on developing our members and their future. This is a conference for you to network, enhance your career, and gear up your AIAS chapter for the next year. Here are the top 5 ways attending can advance your career:

1) Networking with your peers and chapter leadership

Pro tip: Your cohort expands beyond your school, where you all will be experiencing the ups and downs of internships, crits, and balancing school and life! Learn from each other and start out by introducing yourself to someone new.

What does networking really mean for emerging professionals in architecture? For one, it means meeting fellow architecture and design students during unique Grassroots sessions and tours. You can expand your community network from your studio pals to students who share your passion for architecture worldwide. They may even be your future co-workers or business partners! Listen and share perspectives on education, career path, and more. Try asking questions about similar or different classes, dream jobs, and of course, what AIAS looks like at their school.  

2) Networking with firms, speakers, and tour leaders

Pro tip: Everyone at the conference supports students in one way or another. They want to hear from you!

Chatting with someone you don’t know may be scary and weird, especially if they are a professional. But no worries, because the AIAS is here to help. Just like making new friends who are studying architecture, networking with professionals means making new friends. This might mean talking to someone from the AIA, a local architecture firm, NCARB, or an AIAS partner. A great way to spark the conversation is by asking, “How did you know you wanted to be a part of the architecture profession?” This can happen during firm tours, at the Career Expo, or between keynotes. The Career Expo, where firms will be set up at tables, is a great place to talk about yourself and your career goals. Often our expo guests are looking for summer interns or emerging professionals to fill positions at their firms, so don’t hesitate to bring your portfolio and ask! This is a great chance to practice those conversational skills, create connections when hiring, and get insight into what’s happening in the profession. You might also meet your next mentor, who can guide and offer advice about tough decisions in school, internships, and your long-term career.

3) Learning more about how you can use your architectural education

Pro tip: In school, you are exposed to many different ideas, concepts, and tools. Learn from others about how they used their education to pursue their goals.

Your career path can be overwhelming at times, with so many options. One way to become an expert on a more traditional approach is to check out what it takes to become a Student Licensing Advisor, to give students a voice in the licensure process by serving as a local licensure advisor on campus. You’ll get all the information from NCARB you can about going through the education, experience, and examination requirements to become a licensed architect. For more pathways at Grassroots, you’ll have the opportunity to engage with local firms, architects, and other professionals at the career expo, firm receptions, and during organic conversations between sessions to see where they took their architecture education. One of the best resources will also be your AIAS peers, who will share their journey in school and their plans for the future.

4) Learning the best practices for leading a chapter

Pro tip: Be sure to have your sketchbook on hand to write down the tips and tricks you get over the conference

Every year we hear from AIAS Alumni (who are now professionals) how much their time as AIAS leaders helped better prepare them for the professional world. You’ll get training in becoming a leader at your local AIAS chapter and the latest information on leadership opportunities within the national association, such as AIAS committees, the CRIT Journal editorial team, or running for national office in the winter. After the incoming National President announces the AIAS committees for the year at the Leadership Q&A Session, applications will open up over the summer, and committees will start work at the beginning of the academic year. This means Grassroots is a perfect time to consider what committees and leadership opportunities you might be interested in applying for! All members are welcome to apply because AIAS is always looking for passion and dedication before a full resume. Speaking of resumes, adding your work as a leader in the AIAS locally or nationally on a committee or becoming a member of the AIAS’s National Board of Directors will help you stand out as you apply for jobs. Firms and employers want to know that you’re engaged outside of school and have the skills of a leader! To learn more about AIAS committees and leadership positions, attend the Leadership Q&A at Grassroots.

5) Explore the Nation’s Capital’s best foods, sites, and buildings. 

Pro Tip: Getting outside your comfort zone develops you as a person and future architect. Try something new during your time at Grassroots!

Have you ever been to the East Coast of the U.S. and/or Washington, D.C.? Whether your answer is yes or no, Grassroots is an excellent opportunity to see what it is like to live and work in the capital of the United States. Going on our Grassroots firm tours and building tours around the city will give you that first-person perspective of a new environment and pace. Fun Fact: did you know that both AIAS national officers live and work in D.C. while they serve their year in office? As per AIAS tradition, the outgoing president will also lead a guided tour of the monuments during Grassroots. That would be a great time to ask your questions; there’s plenty of walking time between all those monuments.