Julia Andor, AIAS, NOMA, Assoc. AIA (she/her), 67th National Vice President 2023-2024
and Nicole Bass, AIAS, NOMA, Assoc. AIA (she/her), 66th National Vice President 2022-2023
Young people are entering the ﬁeld of architecture for countless reasons, and there are also many reasons why they may decide to stay in or leave the profession. Let’s explore the expectations and realities that students face as they graduate and go into the workforce.
From our experience as the current and past National Vice Presidents of the AIAS, the most prominent motivator to study architecture comes from a creative spirit and an ambition to solve problems in unconventional ways. Students have a strong desire to impact their built environment and community, an interest in structures and construction, and a love of art and design. Students of architecture are enamored by the potential for ingenuity and creativity in the classroom and in the ﬁeld.
The American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) mission and vision statements provide insights into the minds and priorities of students. The mission emphasizes leadership, design, and service, and the vision prioritizes a sustainable, healthy, and equitable future through the empowerment of student voices, ideas, and actions. AIAS encourages all students to prioritize their professional development and grow as leaders in our daily interactions and through programming such as conferences.
Architecture and Design Student Expectations
The time a student spends in school is invaluable, not only to them as they navigate the industry and learn the fundamentals of design, but also to their future employers. The impression that students have of the profession is often tied to the effort that industry leaders and employers put into building relationships with local architecture programs, staff, and most importantly, students. One speciﬁc example of this dynamic that occurs across our 325 chapters worldwide is the relationship between AIAS Chapters and AIA Components.
Participation of diverse professionals from the AIA in AIAS initiatives such as student-led career fairs, mentorship programs, and ﬁrm tours demonstrates that the profession’s leaders are dedicated to engaging with students in a way that allows them to grow as leaders. This relationship dynamic fosters a space for students to ask questions without fear of judgment and generate long-term connections with the industry. The start of this connection may take the form of sponsoring a student event, supporting students to attend a conference, or inviting students to the ﬁrm’s offices. While building relationships with students is no small undertaking, it has a signiﬁcant impact on how those students view the profession and, speciﬁcally, the ﬁrms and leaders that are engaging with them.
Any negative sentiments that students may have as they move into the profession can be tied to the reasons discussed above: a creative spirit and an ambition to solve problems in unconventional ways. While students are in school, they encounter an unbelievable amount of agency in their designs, in the drawing methods they use and in the topics that interest them. They are leaders and problem solvers in their academic environments and may have a difficult time contending with the power dynamics often present in an ofﬁce.
Transition from Classroom to Firm
As students prepare to graduate, transparency is one of the most vital things they seek in taking a position in a firm. The process of job searching is taxing, and providing information such as salary, accepted hours, overtime policies, daily tasks and responsibilities, and hybrid/in-person expectations is extremely beneﬁcial to the process. A universal negative experience of this process is dealing with ﬁle limits on portfolio or work sample submissions. File sizes have gotten larger due to increased rendering along with more environmental diagrams and design iteration. Students are equipped with websites and issuu links to show off their hard work rather than a single pdf.
Portfolios are just one part of the hiring process; we also see the need for clearer communication about interviewing with the ﬁrm. A positive experience students cite is the opportunity to get to know the dynamics and personality of the ﬁrm and the potential team one may be working with during an interview. This validates ideas around architectural work requiring a strong collaborative team to accomplish great projects.
The work environment plays a key role in the experience students have in ﬁrms. Work-life balance is vital, especially for students in school, who may be juggling work, life, and academics. Flexibility in scheduling for commitments like ﬁnal presentations, rest, and ARE preparation is greatly appreciated. Being supported in these endeavors shows a student that they and their future in the ﬁrm is valued. A robust onboarding process that includes mentorship lends itself to a level of comfort with asking questions should be an additional priority. Another impactful portion of a positive work environment is a path for growth.
A young professional thrives when they can see a path from internship, part-time, and full-time work, along with clear expectations from their supervisor and achievable goals in the time span they are working. This, paired with support for ARE testing and preparation, and attending AIAS conferences and student symposia, demonstrates a commitment to the student’s professional development and to their value as a member of the architectural profession.
Julia Andor, AIAS, is currently serving as the National Vice President of the American Institute of Architecture Students and is located in Washington, DC. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture as well as minors in Civic Engagement and Energy Science, Technology, and Policy from the New York Institute of Technology. Julia is particularly interested in community engagement, and completed her thesis on the agency of community members in urban-scale design projects, with a focus on how social justice and historical understanding can result in empathetic design, as well as how transportation infrastructure can be reimagined to serve their surrounding neighborhoods.
Nicole Bass, AIAS, is the Past National Vice President of the AIAS. She’s a graduate of CUNY City College of New York and holds a Bachelors in Architecture degree. While at CCNY, she served in various leadership roles in AIAS, NOMAS, and student government to make impactful initiatives for Spitzer’s architecture education and environment. Nicole recently started a new role as a Junior Project Manager for the NYC Department of Design and Construction Design Built Unit. She will pursue licensure and continue to stay active in architectural organizations that serve and give back to the community in the local New York City area.
(Return to the cover of the November 2023 PM Digest)