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The Value of a Chapter-Level Advocacy Committee

CHAPTER SPOTLIGHT: AIAS KENT

Although National Advocacy Month has come to a close, student advocacy remains a relevant and vital topic to discuss. Just like other programs and initiatives set by the AIAS National Office, the organization’s commitment to advocacy must be brought to our chapters, where the general membership can spread information to schools and beyond to strengthen our impact. After all, the chapter level is where we live and work, and if we all would advocate together, our collective voice could be tremendously loud, and the positive effect we could have would be almost limitless.

At AIAS Kent, we are deeply passionate about advocacy. To give our members a voice and agency within our college and the profession, we formed the AIAS Kent Advocacy Committee. Through this committee, we are providing ourselves with a body that we can utilize to speak on behalf of the students, and we have also begun several initiatives to inform our students about issues within the world of design and expose them to the realities of the profession. Many of these opportunities also offer more tangible benefits and help them advance their careers.  Although our events take many forms, they most often tend to be panel discussions, because we have found that format to be most efficient at disseminating a lot of information and opinions to a large group. Of all our programming, our advocacy events are often the best-attended.

As it turns out, people care about advocacy; all we have had to do is provide an outlet for their passion.

One of our members’ favorite events has been our Internship Panel. The Advocacy Committee held this event to provide an opportunity for our students to learn more about the hiring process and explain the advantages of securing internships.  To ensure a range of perspectives, the panel consisted of two young architects, a more experienced professional in a position to hire interns, and a Kent State career advisor. During the first half of the discussion, the panel responded to prepared questions, while the second half was reserved for audience questions. Looking back, the most important thing we learned while preparing for this event was to always request more than you think you will need, to allow yourself greater choice and flexibility in choosing whatever you had asked for. For instance, rather than asking for exactly three panelists, we invited local AIA Chapters to share a list of volunteers and chose several who could accommodate our schedule.  And of course, we provided plenty of pizza.

Another event the Advocacy Committee puts on is a Women in Architecture Roundtable to discuss the presence of women in the profession. Our hope has been that it educates our members by highlighting important topics of equity, diversity, and representation within the profession, and ultimately inspires them to affect positive change. This event typically requires a little more planning than the Internship Panel. We invite a diverse group of female architects and educators to participate in the discussion, and we have a female AIAS Kent board member moderate the events. This year, we reached out to women in a variety of positions and career stages within the professional and academic spheres and curated an incredibly strong panel, including Jodi van der Wiel, the President-Elect of AIA Cleveland, Utako Tanebe, a recently licensed architect beginning her professional career, Robyn Wolfe, the Women in Architecture Director with AIA Cleveland, and Lindsey Reynolds, our 2018-19 Chapter President. The Advocacy Committee had prepared some general discussion-starters in advance, but we tried to avoid any hyper-specific questions to let the event be conversational and organic. We also left time in the end for the audience to address any additional topics they felt were important and hadn’t been brought up. And again, we provided plenty of pizza.

This year, for Advocacy Month, AIAS Kent unveiled a new page on our website documenting information and resources for anyone interested in learning more about our advocacy initiatives. A key feature of this page is a section where our members can post on advocacy topics that they are passionate about. This provides them with a visible platform for advocacy and ensures that we use our voice as an organization to promote their good work. The new page also includes an anonymous submission box for students to leave suggestions and/or complaints so that we can advocate for meaningful change and offer our members a greater role in shaping the collective Kent State experience.

Through our Advocacy Committee at AIAS Kent, we have seen first-hand that chapter advocacy committees are enormously beneficial and create a host of new opportunities that would not otherwise exist. The presence of an advocacy committee attracts sponsors because it fulfills their desire to contribute to advocacy-driven causes.  Moreover, it opens up new partnerships with other similar causes and organizations. For example, AIAS Kent collaborates with the Kent State NOMAS chapter to promote equity and diversity, sharing both the burden of planning and the satisfaction of an impactful event. Additionally, a committee like ours dedicates itself to providing specific programming, redirecting any extra pressure on the executive board, while still ensuring the continual promotion of our members’ interests.

Chapter leaders at AIAS Kent value our role within a national student organization and consider it our responsibility to lend our voice to people and groups whose messages must be heard. What started as a way for us to promote the interests of students within our college has evolved into an amazing outlet for passionate people to vocalize their concerns and encourage change. We have learned through our endeavors with this committee that people want to be involved with and contribute to causes that are committed to advocacy. Our Advocacy Committee is just one of the many ways in which we strive to make the most of our agency as a chapter, and we truly believe in the power of every AIAS chapter and member to have a lasting impact. Ultimately, our hope is to serve as a model for our peers who want to push actionable student advocacy at their own schools and empower them to influence their communities.

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January 2019 Chapter Leader of the Month: Lindsey Reynolds

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Lindsey Reynolds is currently a fourth-year of architecture student at Kent State University. She has been a member of the AIAS since fall of 2015 and was elected to be the chapter’s treasurer in spring of 2016.

In the past three years, Lindsey has served the AIAS Kent State chapter as treasurer, Director of Membership Development, and now the as President of the chapter. In conjugation with her work with the AIAS, she also serves on the Dean’s Student Advisory Board.

Since Lindsey has become president, she has contributed to chapter growth not only in the number of students registered but in involvement both in the school and with their local AIA chapters. This year alone, the chapter has held events with three different AIA chapters. Lindsey’s chapter has also been able to increase the direct involvement of students through chapter committees dedicated to advocacy and events.

Midwest Quad Director Adam Fogel says that the AIAS Kent State Instagram account has grown very strong under Lindsey’s guidance and leadership. The Instagram account highlights everything from AIAS Kent State chapter’s amazing events to members’ studio work. “Lindsey and the rest of Kent recently won the MWQ Slack competition so now our favorite MWQ Mascot, Cornelius the stuffed corn, is hanging out with the chapter. I’m excited to see what adventures Lindsey and her team take with Cornelius this semester! She is well deserving of the Chapter Leader of the Month Award,” says Adam.

Lindsey looks forward to further expanding the opportunities for students to get involved outside of studio in the coming semester.

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AIAS and Schindler Announce Winners of New Elevator Pitch Competition

Download the press release here.

Washington, DC & Morristown, NJ – July 10, 2017­ – The American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) is proud to announce the winners of Elevate Your Pitch, an elevator pitch competition brought to you in conjunction with Schindler Elevator Corporation, the North American operating entity of the Switzerland-based Schindler Group.

Schindler is one of the leading global manufacturers of elevators, escalators and moving walks. In March, the AIAS and Schindler teamed up to bring a new elevator pitch competition to the AIAS membership. This competition presented students with a great opportunity to pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges for a chance to win recognition and one of three cash prizes.

“We are proud of our association with The American Institute of Architecture Students,” says Mike Ramandanes, senior vice president; New Installations, Schindler Elevator Corporation. “Our partnership, and the Elevate Your Pitch 2017 competition, allows Schindler to help inspire the creativity and innovative spirit of young architects. Their forward-thinking ideas can help solve unique issues today and in the future.”

An elevator pitch is a quick description of your business and/or idea in the time it would take to ride up an elevator (60 seconds to two minutes). Presenting yourself effectively is an essential tool in the architectural profession, which can lead to new partnerships, clients, and ultimately, new business. Ideas may be at any stage of development from creation of concepts or ideas to an established business or product.

The competition ran from March 8, 2017 to May 26, 2017, at which point a jury selected the top three entries to compete in the finals at the AIAS Grassroots Leadership Conference. The jury consisted of a panel of two Schindler representatives and five AIAS/AIA executive team members.

FIRST PLACE | $2,500

Case.MD was built on the basis of saving lives. The team’s mission is to combine emergency medicine into the convenience of a smartphone. The team is comprised of AIAS members from Kent State University: Justin Gleason, Sam Graska and Ariella Yager.

SECOND PLACE | $1,000

A|C collects information from students, architectural sites, and other related design cultures to create a clean and organized catalog for browsing. The team is comprised of AIAS members from the University of Arizona: Nick Giambanco and Zechariah Fung.

THIRD PLACE | $500

Study Buddy is an app that helps you refocus every 20 minutes. Get work done while getting distracted! This idea was submitted by 2017-2018 AIAS West Quadrant Director, Caitlin Kessler of the University of Arizona.

The top three submissions are available to view under “Meet the Finalists!” at aias.org/pitch.

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