12.20.2012Architecture, Business Practice

AIA: Means a Little Bit More

It’s Christmas time and that can only mean one thing….my term as AIA (American Institute of Architects) Asheville President is almost officially over.  At tonight’s annual holiday party the transition will be complete with the customary passing of the bottle opener and the Santa hat!  I thought about focusing this post on all the little and big things that happened this year, but I have decided to take a different direction and talk about value.  Specifically the value of AIA and what it has meant to me over the years.

Is it really about money?

I received my annual AIA dues a couple weeks ago just like my fellow colleagues. Before now I never thought twice about being a member. This is easy when the tab is being picked up by someone else, in this case my former employer.  But now as a firm owner for all of 4 months I look at this piece of paper and for the first time question the worth of this membership.  To put this in perspective, this one payment can keep the office doors open for an entire month or it could go towards the insanely expensive software we need.

This required a little reflection on my part, as I’ve been on the AIA Asheville board for roughly 7 years now and not being a member seemed a little out of character.  Over the years I have had my hand in a lot different things.  I sat as the first YAF (Young Architect’s Forum) director, chaired CANstruction AVL, and helped organize the recent Bow-Wowhaus event to name a few.  All of these had a common theme; I got to meet and work with a lot of great people that I otherwise would have never met.  When you work with this organization it is a true collaborative effort with members, community leaders, you name it.

What do I get back?

Well, honestly I have heard through the years from members and non-members the same question I asked myself, what does AIA do for me?  I now realize that its not about something tangible that you hold in your hand or a bullet pointed response of the member benefits.  The benefit comes with being involved in your community and the AIA, meeting new people, learning new skills and taking on leadership roles.  AIA has equipped me with the confidence and the resources to be able to take this “big leap” to self-employment.  This benefit was only made available to me if I put in the work.

So to the members and non-members that are looking at the same renewal or membership form, I would say yes its absolutely worth it.  But, I wouldn’t send in your check with your hand held out.  You will only get of it what you put into it.  This might mean meeting a potential client at an AIA event, getting to know owner’s of local businesses through community work, or simply discovering skills and talents you didn’t know you possessed.

From one of the all-time great Christmas movies:

Grinch: How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes, or bags!
Narrator: And he puzzled and puzzed, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe AIA,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe AIA… perhaps… means a little bit more.”

See what I did there?  I would be remiss to not mention one part in all this: Mentorship.  Whether these people knew it or not, the board members and directors I’ve worked with have shaped the kind of architect I want to be, the community member I am, and the AIA President I have been.  For that I will forever be grateful to the AIA.

Thad Rhoden, AIA
Principal at Sparc Design
2012 AIA Asheville President

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