Practicing ArchitecturePracticing Architecture
Emerging Professionals Questions for AIA National Election Candidates
Jerome Eben, AIA (AIA New Jersey) Candidate for 2015-16 AIA Secretary
1. What are specific examples of things you have done in your own professional activities and in your local component to build future leaders and promote active participation in the AIA by emerging professionals?
Jerry Eben is committed to the next generation of architects! As an associate member, I took it upon myself to organize colleagues at an AIA NJ annual convention. I chaired a committee that made sure our concerns of employment and proper compensation the work we did was fully recognized. I have continued to champion these causes throughout my career. Early on I saw the benefit of IDP, embracing it for graduates as an organized way to complete the requirements and be fully prepared to take the ARE. As AIA NJ, IDP Chairman, I lobbied the New Jersey State Board of Architects to accept IDP. A passionate promoter of the profession, I have taken every opportunity to mentor emerging professionals in completing their IDP and ARE. An example is Steven Starr, AIA, who is now a successful architect and firm owner in Charlotte, N.C. In my capacity as regional director and a leader in the Class of 2013, I helped raise funds from both my local component and AIA NJ to bring emerging professionals to the convention. Over the past three decades, I have educated hundreds of elementary and middle school children in appreciating the built environment and making sure they understand the importance of building safety, by recalling a time that as a child I escaped a school fire. Katherine Bojsa, a past AIAS vice president, will tell you that she would have never chosen architecture for a career, had I not presented it as a choice for “girls too” when I visited her sixth grade class in the early nineties. In our 150th year, as president of AIA NJ, the chapter put together 150 AIA architects returning to their own 6th grades to present architecture as career. For over a decade, I taught pre-architecture courses at Essex County Community College, where 65 percent of the program’s graduates continued their architectural education. Above all, my students learned lessons that I have spent a lifetime extolling: Since it affects everyone, everywhere, at every age, good architecture is essential for a healthy community.
2. Where do you see voids in representation of emerging professionals within the Institute and the profession, and how could we fill those voids to improve career development for emerging professionals in general?
From the beginning of my career, I recognized that the profession’s and the Institute’s future must be secured by the next generation. After all, I was one of you, and in a shorter time than you may think, you will be one of us. I cannot stress how important it is for any voids, as you so well put it, to be closed. Students (ask those at NJIT AIAS) and others know that I stand alongside them and have argued for the rights of all passionately. As emerging professionals, the charge will be to continue to promote the generation after you! As an AIA leader, I believe that most of our leadership has recognized that many of the different groups that make up our entire membership either need to be actually represented, or have a leader that understands their concerns and can properly represent them. I have those qualifications as exampled in my answers above.
3. While the National Design Services Act is one step, how else can the AIA take leadership in reducing the problem of skyrocketing tuition and student loan debt, and the non-linear relationship these have to low early-career salaries that are saddling our profession’s emerging professionals with significant financial hardship?
There is no doubt that our advocacy efforts have to continue to push for legislation that will help students and their parents with high tuition costs and the debt that haunts them in the after graduation. In terms of compensation, I was fortunate enough to be employed by AIA architects that wanted to break the pattern of abuse that was prevalent for much too long a time. Because they did the right thing, sometimes at their own sacrifice, I made it my business to do the same, when hiring students and emerging professionals. Thankfully, we are now rebounding from a 25 percent decline in payroll positions. Since entry positions were the largest to be eliminated in this last downturn, there is now a greater need for them to be filled. While salaries have not kept pace with those from other professional entry positions, providing other means of compensation is a way to fill the gap. These can be found in sign-on compensation, overtime pay, and project or year-end bonuses.
Since it is important to continue to increase our membership rolls, I would look as my home section has done by inviting and providing free membership. I continue to encourage firms to pay membership dues in the first few years in turn for service to the Institute. The Institute’s economic research, compensation report, and firm survey are ways for students and emerging professionals to gain valuable information prior to sending out their resumes. The Institute must encourage firm principals to support emerging professionals in the processes towards licensure with the financial support of ARE study materials, paid leave for taking the exams, and a substantial raise in salary at their successful completion. This next generation should be welcomed into the AIA, for they are the future of the organization and the profession. In doing so, we and you will be proud to be called “I AM AIA!”
4. In what ways do you see the AIA more effectively educating the public on the importance of good design?
We know that our members strive for quality, consistency, and safety in the built environment. However, the public needs to know more about what it is that we do. They need to learn about the fact that we can provide good guidance and superior service in solving their particular project problems through good design. We are in the voice of the profession and should use that voice in the media. I am in favor of launching a new and dynamic public outreach program, through all kinds of media sources.
5. Much discussion continues to take place regarding the title of “intern.” With regard to titling and beyond, how would you propose the AIA take action to better describe and empower this essential demographic of our profession?
It is time to retire the title “intern” fully. The term Associate AIA seems to fit best as it relates directly to the time upon graduation and though unlicensed to practice, as Associate members you meet all other professional criteria. Of course NCARB would need to make the change from IDP, and I would suggest that it be renamed Associate Program Development (APD).
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your questions, and I welcome your leadership to contact me at (973) 902-4900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.