After recently becoming a licensed architect, I was hoping to get more involved with the local organizations that had supported me throughout that journey. I had been active with the AIA Pittsburgh Chapter of the Young Architect Forum (YAF) for a few years, and in the fall of 2019, I was informed by a colleague on the AIA Pennsylvania’s Emerging Professional Committee (EPiC) that there was a vacant position available to represent AIA Pittsburgh. EPiC is the AIA PA’s version of YAF, and upon hearing the mission and the focus of the group, I quickly volunteered to join.
The AIA PA’s EPiC was created in 2015 and was inspired by a similar committee overseen by AIA New Jersey. The Committee represents and supports individuals on the path to licensure, newly licensed architects, as well as young architects who have been licensed for ten years or less. The mission of the Committee is to strengthen the relationship between the AIA and emerging professionals, at the state and local level, by providing support through programming and advocacy. 2020 was my first year at EPiC, where I became familiar with other committee members and acclimated to the work EPiC does.
Some of the programming for which the committee is directly responsible, and that I am enthusiastic to support, includes the Paula Maynes ARE Grant, the EPiC Firm Recognition Awards, the Promoting, Advocacy, and Licensure through Mentorship (PALM) program, outreach to architecture schools across the state, and support and advocacy for emerging professionals.
- The Paula Maynes ARE Grant was established in 2015 and provides financial support for eligible ARE candidates. For recent graduates, it can be difficult to afford the copious amounts of ARE study materials as well as the cost of the exams, and this grant aims to recognize aspiring architects in Pennsylvania. The application process asks candidates to demonstrate their dedication to achieving licensure and positively impacting their profession and community.
- EPiC Firm Recognition Awards is an annual program established in 2016 to recognize architectural firms across the state that are committed to supporting their emerging professionals through mentoring and ensuring they are gaining appropriate skills through the Architectural Experience Program (AXP). Firms should also encourage emerging professionals to be involved in leadership opportunities and committees either within the firm or for professional organizations and to offer financial incentives for passing ARE exams.
- PALM is my favorite program that is supported by EPiC. I have participated in PALM for the past two years in Pittsburgh. This is a short-term mentoring program that provides an opportunity for not only mentorship but also networking and creating meaningful connections long after the program is over. The dialogue between registered architects, aspiring architects, and architecture students regarding advocacy, career experiences, goals, and thoughts on the past and future of the profession is really the truest form of what EPiC is.
- EPiC also conducts school visits with NAAB accredited schools around the state of Pennsylvania to introduce and educate students about who we are, what we do, and how we can support them. We want students to know they can rely on us for support while they’re going through their academic careers and when entering the workforce.
As the unprecedented year of 2020 was finally coming to an end, I did something unprecedented by submitting my name for the soon-to-be-vacant EPiC Chair position. I saw this as a great opportunity to grow my leadership skills and become more involved with this impactful committee. Now as the Chair for the next two years, I am learning a lot from my fellow cohorts and learning even more about the committee, each task force, and myself. I am exercising the soft skills of leading an organization towards a shared mission and goal. I have learned that I bring a different perspective to the meetings, projects, and organizations that I’m a part of because of my unique lived experiences.
“I saw this as a great opportunity to grow my leadership skills and become more involved with this impactful committee”
In 2020, NCARB conducted a survey in partnership with the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA). The survey which was focused on ARE candidates’ experiences while pursuing licensure found many disparities. For example, the survey results show “women of color experience challenges and hurdles at every stage of licensure path”. The survey also found “women are twice as likely as men to stop pursuing licensure after taking an ARE division”.
As someone who is a female and a minority, I have faced many challenges. My personal mission is to be involved in the professional community not only to serve but also to help others in their journey. Often when I enter a room, in and outside of the work environment, I am usually the only minority present. Recently, I attended AIA Grassroots 2021, a premier leadership and advocacy conference, and once again I felt underrepresented. I have seen first-hand how important it is to have equal representation at the table at all scales, and share opinions & challenges that others may not be aware of or facing. I encourage my colleagues to get involved and participate in whatever capacity they can. This is how we create a more equitable and inclusive profession.
I am becoming more comfortable in my own skin speaking for a group and sharing ideas for the betterment of the committee. I have found the position thus far to be extremely rewarding having been given the opportunity to enact meaningful change to help others who need support and guidance through licensure and their career development. We have a wonderful group of intelligent and talented individuals who are passionate about serving the profession and their communities, and I look forward to the work we will do together over the next two years.