Why volunteer at AIA? Two longtime volunteers break down the benefits
As 2023 fast approaches, AIA is looking for committed members to take advantage of myriad volunteer opportunities that will help participants develop strong leadership skills, expand their network, and ultimately advance the goals of the architecture profession.
AIA is looking for volunteers with a passion for the future of architecture who have a strong desire to tackle obstacles presented by the profession and by society.
“It’s really rewarding to step outside of my day-to-day work to work on projects that see the bigger picture,” said Jessica Sheridan, AIA, Principal at Mancini Duffy. “Volunteering really gives you an understanding on how architects are influential in society and have an impact on many levels in many ways.”
“Volunteering really gives you an understanding on how architects are influential in society and have an impact on many levels in many ways.” - Jessica Sheridan, AIA
Sheridan started volunteering with AIA soon after she graduated from architecture school. “I didn’t have much of a network and was looking for other emerging professionals,” she said. After participating in a variety of volunteer opportunities, Sheridan was mostly recently an At-Large Director on the AIA National Board, where her term ended last year.
Jane Frederick, FAIA, Principal at Frederick + Frederick Architects was AIA’s 2020 President and began volunteering with the organization years prior.
“I’m in a small town, being involved with AIA really helps me meet my peers and lets me share ideas with people from around the country. It’s a good resource to be able to build your business and learn best practices,” said Frederick.
“I’m in a small town, being involved with AIA really helps me meet my peers and lets me share ideas with people from around the country. It’s a good resource to be able to build your business and learn best practices." Jane Frederick, FAIA
Both Frederick and Sheridan cited the development of leadership and collaboration skills as a perk of volunteering with AIA. Each volunteer was humble enough to learn new things but driven enough to help make an impactful change in the profession and on society.
“Leadership is such a tricky word because my involvement with AIA has been so much about collaboration and support,” said Sheridan. “You meet so many people with a strong passion who are willing to step up with you to try to make a difference. You can make an impact exponentially by bringing people together around an idea.”
Frederick, who was AIA’s President during the COVID-19 outbreak, said that people coming together to provide aid during the beginning of the pandemic was a particularly impactful moment of her tenure, and made her proud to be an AIA volunteer.
“I put together a task force chaired by Molly Scanlon, FAIA, who has a PhD in public health. They developed best practices for setting up a temporary medical facility in a non-medical building, like an arena or a gymnasium,” said Frederick. “The information they came up with was picked up by the State Department, translated into different languages and shared around the world. That is making an impact.”
While a penchant for collaboration is important when volunteering with AIA, the ability to bring fresh and unique perspectives to important issues is also a desirable quality in candidates.
“Think about what you’re passionate about, chances are AIA has an opportunity for you. If you’re passionate about climate action, there are committees to join and programs to plan. You can start small, or you can start at full speed and organize something and help to carry it out,” said Sheridan.
Volunteering at a local component is a good way to start your journey, said Frederick, but merely attending events is a good way to get your foot in the door. “Once you’re ready to move into leadership, people will recognize you and say ‘Wow, they’d be great, let’s put them in that role,’” she said.
Naturally, volunteering with AIA has helped many people hone skills that help them in their own workplace.
“Volunteering with AIA has given me confidence to take on things at work that I may not have otherwise taken on,” said Sheridan. “When you’re put in a leadership position at AIA, you are put in a position where you use your judgment and are bringing people together around a consensus. All of those things make a valuable employee at a firm. You can apply those values to your everyday work, and you’ll be given more opportunities.”
Frederick agreed, adding that the network you build can help your personal business.
“The connections you make are outstanding. We have a great employee who was recommended to me by a colleague on the board. He was moving back to the east coast and my colleague was very adamant that he’d be a great employee for me. We hired him and he’s just a fantastic employee, just a wonderful addition to the team.”
Advance your leadership skills, expand your network, and help make a difference, apply for volunteer opportunities today.