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Emerging Professionals Summit:
Engaging and Empowering the Next Generation

Young and aspiring architects gathered to discuss the critical issues facing the next generation of architects

By William Richards

The AIA Emerging Professionals Summit, held at the historic Hotel Andaluz in Albuquerque, NM, Jan. 24-26, gathered together 72 emerging professionals, students, interns, leaders, and executives from ACSA, AIA, AIAS, NAAB, and NCARB to have frank and open discussions about the critical issues affecting emerging professionals, and to draft an action plan to support this next generation of architects.

Addressing the needs of emerging professionals and engaging their collective energy and passion is one of the central priorities of the Repositioning the AIA initiative. The AIA’s current president, immediate past president, incoming president, and CEO hosted and participated in the summit because “we are committed to improving the paths that our emerging professionals take, from the moment they set foot in architecture school,” said Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, 2014 AIA President. “This summit is about people, not process. It’s about empowering our emerging professionals to determine what’s working and what’s not.”

“I’m delighted to have this opportunity to hear from the participants of this summit,” said AIA Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy, FAIA. “The vision and talent of our emerging professionals is what will move the art and practice of architecture forward.”

Dreiling’s charge for participants included a four-point set of outcomes: Develop a future direction and action items for long-term progress; clarify roles, responsibilities, and resources required to support these efforts; establish a framework for achieving outcomes collectively and collaboratively; and commit to measured achievement over time.

Working groups and discussions were organized around four subject areas:

  • architectural education (facilitated by Donna Sink, AIA),
  • licensure (facilitated by Haley Gipe, Assoc. AIA),
  • career development (facilitated by Jonathan Penndorf, AIA), and
  • firm culture and practice (facilitated by Sean Sheffler, AIA).

Each workgroup addressed a range of questions about how the current landscape for emerging professionals could be systemically improved. The education workgroup reported that sustainable design drives architects-to-be, who too often are distracted from these pursuits by uncertain professional and licensure requirements. The licensure workgroup stressed that a greater effort should be made to allow for licensure upon graduation.

The career development workgroup noted it’s clear that architects can navigate the procession through school, internships, and licensure—a path that is well worn—but charting a career can be more difficult because of economic and professional uncertainties. The firm culture and practice workgroup felt that architects must assume more professional risk if their firms are going to flourish and claim more of the design and building process.

On the last day of the summit, representatives from each workgroup reported a total of 12 priorities and proposed actions to clarify a number of issues, such as the range of paths graduates may take to the profession, how architects manage greater amounts of risk and responsibility, and the future of the “intern” designation in professional practice. A draft report from the summit will be completed in late March.

“The EP Summit was a good start and a lot of great ideas were shared,” said 2014 AIAS President and attendee Westin Conahan, Assoc. AIA. “There is a long road ahead to actually start making changes that will affect EPs,” he added, noting that licensure and how architects are recognized in the public eye are two areas that need improvement.

For Conahan, the concept of change isn’t the challenge—it’s making the right changes that are strategic, rather than reactive. “Big changes, although difficult to put in place, would really open up opportunities along a future architect’s career path,” he said.

“This summit was my first involvement with anything related to the AIA,” said Megan Groth, Assoc. AIA, an intern at GGLO Architects, in Seattle. “I was cautiously optimistic, because emerging professionals have always seemed to be on the periphery. I’m glad I went.”

“My biggest take-away was not necessarily the topics—although they were compelling—but the larger point of the summit, which was to put everyone on equal footing,” says Jeffrey Pastva, AIA, of JDavis Architects in Philadelphia. “Everyone’s voice was heard, everyone was a peer…it was a well-rounded discussion.”

Faces of Change: Scenes from the 2014 AIA Emerging Professionals Summit

Drawing Conclusions: The Story of the Emerging Professionals Summit


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Visit the 2014 Emerging Professionals Summit MindMixer website

Watch a video about the 2014 Emerging Professionals Summit

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