June 21, 2022 by Sara Taketatsu

Below is the recording and transcript of a June 14, 2022 interview with 2021-2022 AIAS President Scott Cornelius and 2021-2022 AIAS Vice President Shannon DeFranza.

Interview Recording

Interview Transcript

Sara Taketatsu
Hi, Scott and Shannon, so happy to have you here. The AIAS has been through a lot these past few years. However, the challenges of the pandemic and the virtual world have opened up some opportunities. Could you expand on what the AIAS has done to expand access to the organization?

Shannon DeFranza
Absolutely. I think one of my favorite things this year has been how accessible our conferences and our webinars have been. We have our Thrive webinars, which you can find on YouTube or through our website page, and go to event recordings. But anybody can use those. And we have things like crash courses on how to use glass and design, female leadership and design, and good interview skills. And we’re really trying to just help people build their skills, while we’ve all kind of been away from being in person. So once we can all get together and network again, people are ready.

Scott Cornelius
Yeah, absolutely. That’s, that’s one of the kind of surprisingly good things that we’ve got out of the pandemic, I think, is just the ability to kind of force ourselves into a space where everything’s more accessible. As opposed to, you know, before the pandemic, we wanted to make things accessible. But that movement is just very hard to make when you’re running in person conferences or things like that. So you know, you have to look for kind of the sneaky ways in which you’ve been forced to kind of move forward and make a positive outcome out of the situation, I think that’s one of the greatest ones we’ve had. It’s just the ability to, even as we move back to in person conferences, we’re just so much more aware of how we can make things more accessible if we need to post things after the conference is concluded, record things during the conference, all that kind of stuff. There’s a lot of people that were kind of able to focus on now that just aren’t able to attend in person conferences, are able to come to things that happen at specific times of day, even if they are virtual. So opening up all of our programming has been a really great result of the situation.

Sara Taketatsu
That’s fantastic. I know that some of the virtual programming that we’ve been doing includes Leadership Day as part of grassroots. So I have a fun question for both of you. Really quickly, what were your highlights and lowlights of your first leadership day back in 2020, as quad directors, and then what were your highlights and lowlights as officers, here in 2021?

Scott Cornelius
In 2020, Shannon was working on the finance presentation, right?

Shannon DeFranza
Yes. And we actually did our leadership training session together. And that was our first kind of like, foray into teamwork between the two of us. And it really foreshadowed our relationship this year, I think. But yeah, back to you, Scott.

Scott Cornelius
Yeah. So what was the session that I did in 2020? Now all the years of blending together, 2020 was the quad directors together. So we did leadership and membership with Alex. Yeah, I honestly don’t know that I have a lowlight for leadership day. It was such an, especially in 2020, such a new kind of experiment. And we got to just kind of be out there and do what we wanted. We really pride ourselves in the AIAS on doing things that are for students, by students. And at conferences those lines can blur a little bit, because we’re trying to bring in experts and keynotes that they’re talking about who aren’t necessarily students. But at Leadership Day, it really was a student hosted experience. And it was just really special. So getting to interface directly with members is a whole other part of this that we really appreciated. But just the ability to directly convey information about leadership opportunities, the AIAS had was amazing for Shannon and I. 

And then in membership, we got to talk about just what it means to be an AIAS member. Getting feedback from the members is something that we try to do with that session as well. So it’s really valuable for people who attend but also for the AIAS in a general sense. Just getting to talk more directly about what AIAS membership means, what are the things that we’re offering right now? What are things we couldn’t be offering that we’re not? So yeah, love, love Leadership Day. I really don’t think that there’s a downside, honestly.

Shannon DeFranza
And going off of that I think people forget that we’re about to have the third Leadership Date since the pandemic hit. And I don’t think we acknowledge that enough. But three years ago, at Leadership Day, 2020 was the first Leadership Day and it was only three months since the pandemic started. And everybody was so deprived of seeing people that they hadn’t seen for like months and years. And so everybody was getting online. So excited. I think a lowlight might have been we were still figuring out virtual platforms at that point, and thank goodness we’ve come pretty far from that day. And then in 2021, I really liked doing my finance presentation with Baili our current Midwest Quad Director, shout out Baili, and getting to answer a lot of people’s questions on the fly and then also just getting a random Slack message being like, “hey, I really liked what you said, can we talk?” That’s always great because it feels like the membership and us are really then engaging. This leadership day, I’m really excited because we’re doing something we haven’t done in the past where we’re starting off with a, basically how to AIAS session because we have so many new members, so many new leaders this year and so many leaders that maybe never did in person stuff, and we’re going to give a crash course on how to make the most of your AIAS experience.

Scott Cornelius
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I’m really excited for that session as well. AIAS 101 I think is what we’re calling it. And it’s just, how to be an AIAS member, which, you know, isn’t really something we’ve done in the past, interestingly, but it’s really beneficial. And it’s almost necessary, now, coming back to in person things after two and a half years, the AIAS is starting to reform its culture and the way that it passes on information from year to year. So I think the previous year has just been the basics of being an AIAS member. It was almost conveyed just person to person, leader to leader. And now we’re getting to that in a more formal sense. So I think we can all come together and one, educate people on what it means to be a member and reassess what that should mean. And if we should change something about that. So super excited for AIAS 101, the quad director and ambassador hosted sessions are going to be amazing, as always, and then integrating more formal trainings into the day is going to be really amazing as well. So for example, being on a NAAB accreditation team is something that is a great opportunity for students that we don’t advertise a whole lot, even though it is included in some of the forms that we put out. And we’re gonna have a training session on that. How, when you go on to a NAAB team, can you actively contribute? What’s your role as a student on that team, that kind of stuff. So I think we’re going to be able to use those sessions as a way to just garner a lot of student involvement and the things that we haven’t in the past couple of years, and just get the AIAS members more involved in things that aren’t even necessarily the AIAS, itself, but every part of architecture.

Sara Taketatsu
So you were describing some of the fantastic things that we can look forward to this leadership day and going in that direction as well. You both are about to transition in Cooper Moore and Nicole Bass as the 2022-2023 National Officers, what do you hope for their year? And what should we all be looking forward to in the AIAS?

Scott Cornelius
Yes, very excited for Coop and Nicole to start up, especially after this year where, you know, we just integrated, we just began working on the implementation of a new strategic plan. And so our big goals within that are to pivot the organization and to stabilize, I think we’ve done a lot of work to stabilize this year. And it’s been really great for the organization just coming up with the pandemic to have this year to kind of regather ourselves. You know, our theme for this year was Evolve. So we’re trying to kind of evolve what the AIAS is, realigning it to what’s needed in a post-pandemic world or, you know, in a pandemic world as you look at it. But I think Coop and Nicole will be able to stretch out a little bit after the work that we’ve done this year and be able to really rethink, I forget the word that we’ve been using, but to rethink what the AIAS is what FORUM is what Grassroots is, all the conferences, all the programming, and how it affects students directly. So yeah, just excited for the work that they’re gonna be able to do. It’s going to be, I think, you know, a lot of the focus of the AIAS has always been on professional development, advocacy, but also on fun. And I think that next year, we’re going to be able to have a lot of fun that maybe we haven’t been able to in the past couple of years, and we come back together for this Grassroots, we’re just gonna be able to reform that community that’s been lacking a little bit, which is what architecture students need. That’s why AIAS was formed in the first place, to give us that community. I’m excited, Coop and Nicole are just very, very fun people. And I think they’re gonna have a great year.

Shannon DeFranza
Yeah, absolutely. Every officer has a different vibe, if you will. And Scott and I have really, we hit the ground running this year with a theme, Evolve. And I think one of the things we’re leaving, that kind of clears the stage for Nicole and Coop, is that we, we’ve really assessed a lot of our traditions, and we’ve made tough calls to let some of them go in the hope to evolve in the organization, as we said, And so giving Cooper Nicole some space to actually think about the vision and the mission of this organization moving forward, has been great. Plus, we have our new Executive Director, Larry here now. So having a full team coming back into the office, I think that we are looking forward to, I am looking forward to seeing how our membership and our benefits are revamped. Our conferences get rethought and I think it’s we’re kind of just getting into a renaissance of the AIAS and we can see where we go from here.