By Sumayyah Raji
I knew I had taken on a new challenge when I accepted the role as AIAS President at Morgan State University, but I was yet to realize the responsibility and influence that comes with such a position. My experience at the AIAS Grassroots Leadership Conference made me realize the significance of the task at hand—that my face and voice represent more than just myself, and most importantly, my role as a catalyst for change.
The AIAS Grassroots Conference gave me an opportunity to establish friendships and learn from my contemporaries from all over the country at different stages of their lives. Our interactions lead me to a higher level of self-awareness and understanding of community. Knowing that we all share collective goals and responsibilities for our chapters and that we can rely on and motivate one another is comforting and makes the task less daunting. I also learned how to use my leadership position as a module for career and personal growth.
The lifestyle track taught me how to accept my imperfections so that I can be my best self. The leadership track taught me that sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves and just do the work, people will follow. The innovation track taught me that my ideas can serve a higher purpose.
Anthony Vanky’s keynote about his work with MIT Senseable City Lab was the highlight of the conference. It was incredible to see and hear how they were using their data-driven research to influence design and urban planning, and it made me realize the importance of integrating service into everything I do.
Looking toward the next academic year and beginning my tenure as Morgan State University’s AIAS President, I am excited and a bit nervous. I am confident that with the strong community of friends, classmates and professors that we have in the School of Architecture and Planning, the Vice President, Maleick Flemming, and I will be able to make an impact that truly matters.