August 5, 2019 / Member News

Reporting from AIAS Grassroots 2019

Washington, DC (August 5, 2019) – Last month, AIAS leaders headed to Washington DC to attend the first ever AIAS Grassroots Leadership Conference. The conference is the platform to discuss chapter leadership, business leadership, community involvement and innovation, and to learn from local CEOs, founders, government officials and professionals. AIAS members get exposed to the training, resources, skills, network, and passion required to reach their full potential. Three AIAS leaders from the Morgan State University Chapter attended the conference. Here is what they had to say:
Rahmah Davis – Sophomore at Morgan State University
We, the youth, are the future—we will shape the world and change the way people live. Baltimore City, according to the President of the United States, is “rat infested” and “no human being would live there.” This statement ignited my will to work harder to change Baltimore. It is a wake-up call and the youth should be heavily involved in the future of Baltimore. This statement relates to my participation in the AIAS Grassroots conference. Throughout the event I was asking myself, “How can I change Baltimore?”
Grassroots helped me answer this question. Certain keywords came up that resonated with me. UX DESIGN: The future of technology and the embedding of architecture, and how the two are needed for an ultimate user experience. LIVING IN SPACE: A vision can be as unthinkable as you want. This lecture taught me not be afraid to pursue any vision or dream, and to think outside of this world, both literally and figuratively. I WAS ASKED TO STAND: Challenge yourself in the face of adversity and believe in yourself first before anyone else. Give back to the community and empower people to achieve better.
Being in a room full of intelligent and motivated students had a profound effect on me. Grassroots taught me about the importance of representation. Architecture is a predominantly white profession. African American women are well in the minority with only 560 registered architects in the nation. Pascale Sablan, an African American woman, architect, and diversity advocate, moved the room to tears in just under an hour speaking to the need for change action with the slow progress of diversity in the architecture field.
During the conference, I couldn’t help but notice the number of AIAS members attending per school and the unfortunate lack of representation of Black students who would benefit from these life lessons. I was extremely grateful to have attended and to have been sponsored to represent my school. Grassroots provided a clear representation of the world of architecture. I hope the experience I had will be given to more African American students.
The conference ignited my passion for architecture and clarified what I wanted to do as a student and hopefully as a professional. Creating is the main purpose of an architect; it’s all about creating spaces and experiences that people will love and enjoy. However, my plan is to create with the purpose of solving problems nationally and internationally. I should consistently create to provide services that enhance the lives of others.
Ryan Eubanks – Sophomore at Morgan State University
Ryan Eubanks, a student at Morgan State University’s School of Architecture and Planning had the opportunity to attend AIAS Grassroots for the first ever student Capitol Hill Day. The goal of this visit was to educate key members of congress about the overwhelming debt that an architecture student leaves school with and how this delays their savings for retirement.
During AIAS Grassroots, 30 students took to Capitol Hill to lobby for the adoption of S.1428 (Retirement Parity for Student Loans Act). The bill allows for loan payments to be counted and matched by employers. The day was laid out in two parts. First, students engaged in a training and practice session to become familiar with the bill and how to effectively convey our needs. Following a catered lunch, we headed to the hill with a student leader and a lobbyist for a pair of meetings. First, we met with Jill Hunter Willams who is the Deputy Chief of Staff for Rep. Danny Davis of the Illinois 7th District. We learned they are working on a house companion bill with some greater breadth and she said she would keep us informed when they roll it out. Our second stop was scheduled on the fly because we had a cancelation from another office. We met with Jake Lowenstien, from Rep. Michael Bost’s office of the Illinois 12th District. This was a shorter meeting. The staffer explained that they often work with Danny Davis on bi-partisan initiatives and would love to see the bill once it rolls out. Overall, the experience was very educational how your voice can be heard and amplified. 
Ciera Jones – Senior at Morgan State University
Participating in my first AIAS Grassroots Conference was a great experience and has set the tone for our chapter during the 2019-2020 school year. I love networking and learning how I can better serve the students in our chapter and architecture community. Fulfilling my duty as our chapter’s vice president, I was able to participate in the chapter president meeting on the last day of Grassroots where we voted on bylaws, introduced new bylaws, and got a glimpse into the organization on a National level. I was excited that I was prepared for this portion of the meeting due to my involvement as a Student Representative for the AIA Baltimore Board of Directors and their recent election for AIA National officials.
We voted on bylaws such as the clarity of new committee rules, Freedom By Design (FBD) rules, and whether or not elected officials for the President and Vice President roles should be limited to those who serve on their chapter’s executive boards. We ultimately ruled that this would exclude those not able to serve on their own school’s executive boards in the short, typically, four years in school. Many members have the necessary skills through serving on the board for other organizations and most applicants receive a thorough vet before being able to showcase themselves for the election at Forum in January. Thus ruling that this could limit the potential for a great and adequate leader. This experience taught me how to make an amendment, state my claim and many other skills that will be useful in the coming years.
All in all, the conference was amazing and I made more friends who also have a passion for service and being the best leaders, mentors, and colleagues we can be as we tackle our architecture journeys.