Friday, November 07, 2008

Why should you join an association like the American Institute of Architecture Students?

I am preparing to head out to the Fall Midwest Quad Conference of the AIAS in Kansas City, Missouri to join more than 315 students of architecture for a weekend of touring, learning, and comradere. The highest regestration for a quad conference in recent history and well above the individual totals of the other three conferences at locations around the northern hemisphere, including 180 registered for the Northeast Quad Conference in Toronto, Ontario. Both of these conferences held simultaneously account for over 500 chapter members gathering around architecture. Are you one of them?

This year over 700 students made the decision to take one weekend of their busy school semester to travel and particpate in a conference hosted by a peer. This represents more than 10% of the total membership of AIAS the previous year. As the leadership welcomes this spectacular turnout, the real cause for the participation is difficult to identify. Historically the conferences are where the membership find some of the greatest value in their benefits. FORUM holds the most exciting time for students as they celebrate the New Year in a different city each event. Are those then the benefits that convince members to join?

One of the many questions asked of the AIAS president in their travels is, what benefits are there for joining the AIAS? This question starts the dialog between two people to narrow down the individual benefits attractive to the inquirer, however I would argue the question that should be asked is, what am I missing by not being a part of the AIAS?

When phrased in this manner, the future member shifts from being an individual to being a part of the whole. As the GenYers demonstrate, it is with the group an individual finds his or her power. No longer is the person dependent on meeting their own needs but recognizes the group will help them attain their goal. What then does the group offer to the individual they cannot find on their own?

A voice. The group offers the opportunity to be heard. Not as the last generation did, through protests and rallys, but subtly, quietly, as the individual. It is this voice and the ideas behind it that are strenghthened in the group. It starts small, a simple thought shared between two individuals, yet grows as people are introduced to the idea. From this genesis the idea and the individual are strengthened and the group supports the member.

And so it starts with the individual, yet becomes not about the individual, instead takes the group to propel the individual forward and ultimately the group is elevated through the members. This is a very powerful understanding for anyone who desires to make a difference. Recognizing it no longer becomes who you know, it has always been about who knows you. Who do you allow to meet you, get to know you, introduce your ideas, understand your strengths, and share you passions. Maybe those are the benefits the 300+ members gathering in Kansas City have recognized as important enough to join the organization and spend the weekend together.

As I land in Kansas City I am looking forward to meeting and introducing myself to all of the new individuals who are interested and excited about architecture. This raises the question that is asked repeatedly, why should I join an organization? How do I justify the dues? In this economic climate can you risk not taking the opportunity to be in the organization? Now more than ever, it is imparative to have others speaking about you. With the group comes recognition and strength, a reassurance that you belong, and that your ideas matter. Simply stated the greatest member benefit in joining is, you.

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