by: ASHLEY HARTSHORN, ASSOCIATE AIA
Over the course of my 5-ish years as an AIA Associate member, I have become a sort of conference junkie. Honestly, that probably started in AIAS. Forum is amazing. If you’re still in school and haven’t been, I highly encourage it. How many times in my life will I get to ring in the New Year inside of a Calatrava masterpiece? I’d guess that was a once in a lifetime thing. Something else I’d guess is a once in a lifetime thing – hearing Michelle Obama speak (at #A17Con).
This is not about politics. Just set that aside. Michelle is a woman of influence, a woman of color, and a woman that has the education, experience, and ability to encourage change. More architects need to work on the encouragement part.
That can be as simple as having a conversation with someone. One of my seminars was on the art of community engagement, and that combined with Michelle’s talk and putting together a video for elementary students for a career day, has reminded me that many people simply do not know what an architect does, or think it’s only for the affluent. We need to talk with people, elevate our awareness, engage communities in what we do. This can happen at all ages, but one of Michelle’s biggest takeaways was that it needs to start young. There are kids in underprivileged communities throughout our nation, and throughout the world, that simply react to the environment around them. If their communities aren’t maintained, they’re well aware that they’re cared about less, that such a place and way of life is what they should expect. If people don’t tell them about the options they have, and the things they can aspire to, they’ll assume the only options they have are the ones they see around them. Encouraging people at a young age is one way to start changing architecture’s diversity issues, and mold more architects from different cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds, people of color, and women.
It was also great hearing some talented and accomplished women speak at the conference, including but not limited to Michelle Obama. Most of them exuded a shear sense of confidence that was mesmerizing and aspirational. As women, we need to better value ourselves and take what we’re worth. No sitting around and waiting for people to help us get there – just get out and do it. We have quite a long way to go, but as a collective we can accomplish a lot – and encourage others to do the same.
This is partially why I’m an active member of the AIA. I’ve gained so much inspiration and knowledge from the conferences I’ve attended and the boards and events I’ve been a part of, and I’ve met an amazing network of people locally, statewide, regionally, and nationally through all of it. I’m encouraging you to put something into it, because I guarantee you’ll get something out of it – maybe even more than you expect. I’m encouraging you to encourage others, because the future starts now. I’m encouraging you to be a better architect (or soon-to-be architect) because we all need a little better in the world.