Mercury Roaming

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whatsupinmarchWho can say what sparks inspiration, engagement, conversation, connections between a group of professionals all aspiring to a similar goal? Whether attributed to current social environment and economic infrastructure; a volatile political climate. Or the alignment of Mercury climbing farther away from the setting sun (according to NASA satellite tracking), #AIAGrassroots17 was an inspiring week of architects, design professionals, and AIA chapters across the country gathered to not only bring their ideas to the table, but to listen to others.

Attendees and presenters were talking about architecture in different ways than they have in the past. Members were passionate and engaged, forums and presentations were well-attended (as evidenced by the AIACC AEP and AIA New Jersey EPiC. More than 100 in attendance left our EVP, Paul W. Welch, Jr. walking to and fro gathering chairs for the standing-room-only event.)

AIA New Jersey EPiC

AIA New Jersey EPiC

Below are a take-aways from two of the AEP Presenters from California. If you were in attendance, these will perhaps resonate, leaving you nodding your head in agreement excitedly remembering the trip two weeks ago. And, if you were not there, then these will serve you equally as well in their information, inspiration and passion. Bottom line: The current leadership is engaged in making the profession and association better. Whatever the current location of the stars and planets, members are ready to ignite the change needed in order to hold the organization to a  higher standard.

Ben Kasdan, AIA, Vice President of the Academy of Emerging Professionals:


Ben Kasdan, AIA

AIA Grassroots provides a unique opportunity to connect, learn, advocate, and explore. I always stay up late and wake up early, but have a lot of fun, too! The 2017 edition was no exception.

Since it is smaller and more intimate than Convention (now known as Conference on Architecture), it is easier to pull AIA National representatives aside for a quick conversation at Grassroots — as a few members of the AIACC AEP COA did with AIA 1st VP Carl Elefante, FAIA. In addition, I inevitably reconnect with other AIA leaders’ friends from across the country.

The educational sessions are relevant and targeted at leadership and component management. This year, the AIACC AEP joined forces with AIANJ’s EPiC to present a highly anticipated “Building an Emerging Professionals Network.” We hope the attendees left the session with practical tactics and strategies to employ in their home chapters in the next weeks, months, and year.

Despite the new “AIA SpeakUp Advocacy Conference” in the summer, Grassroots still gives architects the best chance to advocate on behalf of the profession with our congressional representatives. The AIACC contingency met with Senator Feinstein’s office again this year about redefining “infrastructure” to include community buildings, not just roads, bridges… or walls.

Washington, DC is a special place; one of the few American cities that was developed following a masterplan. There is so much history there and I always make a point of exploring some of the city and the visiting the amazing museums. I ended up walking the monuments after midnight the night before with other AIACC leaders: Jana Itzen, AIA, Britt Lindberg, AIA, Nicki Dennis-Stephens, Hon. AIACC, and Ian Merker, AIA. It was probably irresponsible to stay up that late, but it was worth it. Another favorite spot in the District is the courtyard at the National Portrait Gallery, with its Foster+Partners-designed undulated roof where Megan Dougherty, Assoc. AIA (whom you will read some thoughts below) and I prepped for our presentation between coloring portraits of Supreme Court Justice RBG for National Women’s Day.

Megan Dougherty, Assoc. AIA, AIA Regional Associate Director:


Megan Dougherty, Assoc. AIA

1. Attending AIA Grassroots is like gaining exclusive access into all the great leadership minds AIA offer. From elevator rides full of National Board members to random run-ins with component leaders from around the country, Grassroots provides unprecedented access to idea sharing, and generation, to better the future of our organization. Barriers are broken down and collaboration hits its stride in this unique environment. Many conferences provide great opportunities for networking, but Grassroots seems to thrive off finding ways to grow our profession and better our world.

2. The support system found at AIA Grassroots is unlike any other. Some of the most passionate people in our organization are confined in a hotel together for almost a week. This creates intense bonding, leading to mentorship opportunities and career and life support.

3. I find that I tend to come away from many conferences inspired and energized, but when I walk away from Grassroots I’m also amazed at how productive we can all be in such a short period. This is a conference where decisions are made and seeds are planted.


Shannon Calder

Shannon Calder, a Sacramento-based writer, joined the AIACC in 2013. She is the author of, “Jack and Abigail Make a Compass,” a novel about people, birds, and orchids. She spends her days both on and off hours, looking for connection, which is a good hobby to have when linking the value of design to public perception.

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