The Next Generation of Leadership

Published: September 26, 2019 | Updated: July 16, 2020

AIA Wisconsin Leaders pose for group photo at the Aldo Leopold Foundation in Baraboo

AIA Wisconsin hosted its 2019 planning retreat on July 26 at the Aldo Leopold Center near Baraboo. Chaired by 2019 Vice President/President-Elect Andy Malanowski, the planning session started at 8:41 a.m. and concluded at 3:28 p.m.

Local, state and regional AIA leaders were invited to help determine how to grow AIA opportunities that benefit the profession and enrich the careers of the next generation of leaders. To start the conversation on strategies for overcoming reasons members are not more engaged and attracting new leadership talent to guide the organization, participants were asked three questions:

  • What do you enjoy from your involvement?
  • What are the concerns and roadblocks you hear from members for participating?
  • What keeps you from inviting members to engage?

The group offered answers to these questions and brainstormed a healthy list of potential solutions. Over the course of the day, several themes emerged along with the discovery that the challenges to greater member engagement share many of the same solutions.

By the end of the retreat, AIA leaders were focused on developing ideas and action plans to address three broad themes – Communications, Event Planning & Convention, and Section Review. Champions volunteered for initiatives to enhance connections with firms, encourage attendance at state conference, and reduce barriers to member engagement with local sections. Additional details about these initiatives are provided in the “Small Group Discussion – Action Items” section of this report.


With Carol Sente helping to facilitate the discussion, 24 members participated in the retreat, including local, state and regional AIA leaders: Jody Andres, AIA; Diana Davis, AIA; Daryl Dean, AIA; Melissa Destree, AIA; Matthew Dumich, FAIA; Kate Edwards, AIA; Patricia Frost, AIA; Curt Hoffmann, AIA; Josh Johnson, AIA; Katie Kangas, AIA; Stacey Keller, AIA; Jennifer Lehrke, AIA; Rich Lundeen, AIA; Andy Malanowski, AIA; Paul Martzke, AIA; Thomas Meiklejohn, AIA; TJ Morley, AIA; Allyson Nemec, AIA; Doug Pahl, AIA; Bradley Peterson, AIA; Kim Reddin, AIA; Jody Shaw, AIA; Sarah Skalizky, AIA; and Ursula Twombly, FAIA.

Welcome & Agenda Review

Malanowski welcomed everyone, described the theme for the planning retreat and reviewed the agenda for the day. A rousing mass rock-paper-scissors game (MRPS) got everyone involved right from the start.

Sente reflected on her experiences as an owner of an architecture firm, state legislator and business consultant to help set the stage and share her thoughts on engagement. She outlined the different levels and benefits of engagement. Participants offered examples of engagement, including the benefits of working with school children, mentoring emerging professionals and serving as an adjunct instructor at a community college.

Paul Martzke reviewed the five strategic initiatives that emerged during last year’s retreat, which focused on architectural engagement:

  • Collaboration – Work with allied professionals on education and advocacy programs
  • Storytelling – Highlight contributions to the profession and diverse career paths through a regular Member Spotlight communication feature
  • Advocacy – Create resources to demystify the legislative process and get architects more engaged in government affairs and community service
  • Recognition – Establish a program to recognize “citizen architects” for their role in improving our communities
  • Leadership – Leverage the new Architect Mentor Program (AMP) to share knowledge on leadership skills

Large Group Activity

Malanowski highlighted the differences in member engagement depending on whether you are an officer of an AIA component or a general member and what this means in terms of developing the next generation of leadership for the organization. The plan to address three ideas or themes as a large group and then break into smaller groups to discuss the issues in more detail was outlined.

What do you enjoy from your involvement?

When asked, participants mentioned a variety of things they enjoy from being involved with the AIA. Examples include: meeting new people, learning new stuff, getting inspired, having a voice, getting out of the office, staying current, solving problems, balancing work experience, gaining leadership skills, and advocating for design.

What are the concerns and roadblocks you hear from members for participating?

Participants identified a number of items that can discourage members from participating, including: competing demands on their time, unclear expectations, questions about benefits of participation, lack of employer support, resistance to trying new things, unaware of opportunities, lack of awareness about small roles to get started, and would rather network with people other than architects.

What keeps you from inviting members?

Several obstacles to inviting other members to join you at AIA events were mentioned as part of the large group brainstorming session, including: people have other things to do, geography or timing makes it difficult to attend, don’t know who members are, an event of interest can get lost in long list of upcoming events, afraid of being recruited if show up, and lack of targeted communication.

Small Group Activity

Participants divided into three smaller groups and rotated through discussions to identify solutions to the issues and challenges emerging from the three big questions. Each small group discussion was moderated by a member of the Executive Committee: Malanowski [Roadblocks to Participation], Martzke [Invitation to Engage] and Jennifer Lehrke [Enjoyment from Engagement].

The questions started a conversation that resulted in tactics and other ways to overcome some of the common reasons members have for not getting involved and to make it easier to recruit new talent and the next generation of leadership for the organization.

Roadblocks to Participation

Malanowski reported out on ideas generated for solving the challenges to greater member participation. Suggestions include: partnering with other community groups for different non-architecture experiences, creating smaller groups of members for discussion about common interests, offering discounted registration fees to encourage members to invite a friend to an event and new members to attend the state conference, targeting emails and other communications based on the type of event, and rebranding the titles of members leading local section programs and activities.

Invitation to Engage

Martzke shared the suggestions offered to overcome the resistance to inviting other members to join you at AIA events. Ideas to address these challenges include: identifying “champions” at each firm to promote engagement, increasing flexibility in funding for programs, offering a variety of programs that engage and benefit all generations, improving the effectiveness of communication and promotion of programs and events, and redefining committee structure to create clubs related to emerging interest areas.

Enjoyment from Engagement

Lehrke reviewed the ideas suggested for solving the challenges to creating enjoyable member engagement experiences. Ideas include: offering smaller group events, establishing subsections of local sections, volunteering for community service events beyond architecture programs and social activities, sharing stories of member contributions, encouraging greater financial flexibility to take risks, and viewing everything through the lens of equity and inclusion.

Recap of Challenges & Voting on Suggestions

After a lunch break, Malanowski outlined the agenda for the afternoon and explained the exercise of participants voting for the issues and suggestions of greatest value or importance.

Many solutions were generated during the group brainstorming sessions in the morning. Similar solutions often were suggested to address different challenges. Several emerging themes were highlighted. For example, it may be easier to create smaller committees or clubs, which would be responsible for preparing annual reports on activities. There was interest in partnering with other service organizations offering local programs other than vendor-provided educational presentations over the lunch hour. An overarching issue of promoting equity, diversity and inclusion in all programs and events also was identified.

The voting exercise allowed participants to highlight the solutions they wanted to advance. The top-ranked ideas and suggestions were grouped together under three broad topic headings:

  • Communications
  • Event Planning & Convention
  • Section Review

Small Group Discussion – Action Items

Participants broke into three groups, with each group focused on one of the emerging topics or themes. Their assignment was to develop actionable items to implement the top ideas over the next year and identify champions to guide these efforts. Following the small group discussions, a representative of each group reported out the action plans developed.


Katie Kangas reported on ideas for keeping members engaged, including spreading the word via social media and webinars, developing posters to promote upcoming events, scheduling events routinely on specific days of the month, and creating information for member spotlights. The group also discussed identifying firm champions that would provide a personal touch point and scheduling firm visits to discover the challenges that firms are facing and what the AIA can do to help, with Martzke volunteering to be the champion for this initiative. [Group members: Kangas, Martzke, Davis, Lundeen, Hoffmann]

Event Planning & Convention

Lehrke reported on suggested items to increase participation and expand the variety of programs. Suggestions included having a point person in each section and guidelines with checklists to provide a structure for volunteers. The group also discussed ideas for non-CES programs like firm crawls and peer groups that would appeal to more than just members. The concept of utilizing policy statements on emerging issues to help members become “citizen architects” was suggested.  Incentives to encourage new members and students to attend the state conference and other members to bring a guest were mentioned, with Bradley Peterson volunteering to be champion for this initiative. [Group members: Lehrke, Peterson, Dean, Destree, Frost, Skalitzky, Malanowski]

Section Review

Stacey Keller reviewed the action items discussed by this group to break down barriers to member engagement in local section programs. A suggestion was to find a task force champion in each area to review the structure and identify programs of interest to members in each section and clusters of members within each section. The group also discussed studying communications and funding to encourage participation. TJ Morley volunteered to be the champion for this initiative. [Group members: Keller, Morley, Twombly, Reddin, Edwards, Shaw, Andres]

The Last Word

Malanowski thanked everyone for participating and contributing to the great ideas and concepts developed during the retreat. He noted that the AIA has a lot of things already in place to support success. He also was pleased that a number of people stepped up to volunteer as “champions” for specific initiatives. Sente commended the group for coming up with fantastic ideas. She commented on how good it will feel when these ideas are implemented.

While the planning retreat didn’t provide the magic answer for recruiting the next generation of leadership, it did generate good discussion on AIA programs and identified important themes for addressing challenges. Through a combination of the ideas generated and observations from the day, the planning session provided member leaders and the Board of Directors with some nuggets to explore over the course of the next year. With the assistance of the initiative champions, the discussion will continue on how to make AIA Wisconsin an even stronger organization.

Approved by AIA Wisconsin Board of Directors, August 23, 2019

Image credits

AIA Wisconsin Leaders pose for group photo at the Aldo Leopold Foundation in Baraboo


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