The AIA Ohio Foundation: Helping To Create a Pathway to the Profession
Bruce Sekanick, FAIA, President of the AIA Ohio Foundation Board

For many years, the AIA Ohio Foundation focused principally on funding scholarships for students in Ohio’s architectural programs. These scholarships varied in size, depending on the resources available to the Foundation at the time. A little over five years ago, the Foundation looked for ways to connect with more students than those five, six, or seven scholarship recipients. We needed a better tool to use in our outreach efforts. With the development of our AIAS chapter grants, we found the tool we needed to connect and help members of the AIAS community. Unfortunately, this effort had to be suspended with the start of the pandemic. Now, after nearly two years, the Foundation has started this program again.

Because scholarship recipients are chosen by the individual architectural programs, the Foundation has had only limited opportunities to connect and discuss the needs of tomorrow’s emerging professionals. With the addition of the AIAS grants, we are not only able to reach more students, but we are better able to understand their concerns and the needs of their peers navigating through the ups and downs of today’s architectural programs. The grant program allows AIA to better connect with students while we help meet their needs including, funding the development of programs and supporting their travel and participation in regional and national events.

Some may question why we need to connect at all with the AIAS students. Some might say, they need us more than we need them. Even if that was a person’s opinion three or four years ago, I would be hard-pressed to find anyone with those same thoughts today. While the number of registered architects continues to grow across the country, there remains a shortage of young architects and emerging professionals to meet the needs of today’s profession. Just as importantly, the profession continues to change. A meeting initiated by the Foundation trustees and liaisons to BGSU, Daniel Bickerstaff II, AIA, and Mary Glowacki, AIA, produced a wealth of information about the Bowling Green AIAS and NOMAS chapters. This data was further expanded upon with a face-to-face visit earlier this month, where the chapter was presented with a $1,500 check to support their programs through the rest of this spring and into the fall semester. In March, as part of an AIA Ohio Board meeting, the Foundation met with AIAS members from Miami University, providing them with a check of equal value that was used to support the chapter’s trip to Columbus, IN. Over the next few days, Trustee John Rogers, FAIA, will be leading the conversation with members of the Cincinnati AIAS. As we gather information from the students, we are beginning to get a glimpse of the challenges they face and the needs they have. In some cases, there is little we can do. Architectural programs are hard. But sometimes, there are needs that can be met. From making ourselves available as mentors to supporting student membership in the AIAS, AIA can help improve the experience of architectural education. At our recent meeting of the BGSU AIAS, we found that just over 14% of the annual membership fee is retained by the local chapter, while the other approximately 86% goes to AIAS national. While we won’t judge the needs of each, we do know that a membership fee of nearly $50 is a challenge for some, and we need to find a way to help.

While part of our visits to the universities is about understanding needs, we are also afforded the opportunity to see and engage with the next generation of architects. Our visits to each of the programs have been tremendously helpful and we see the uniqueness of each program. We come away from our meetings excited by the energy of the students and their eagerness to engage with those who are already in practice. We are encouraged by their dedication to the art of architecture, and it is our hope that we can find bigger and better ways to help them along their path to becoming members of the profession.