Don’t take our word for it…

Alot of you get to here  us constantly hear us talking about how great AIAS involvement is. Some of you haven’t quite sold out to the idea yet. Well maybe hearing from another architecture student and chapter leader, from all the way across the country will buy us some credibility.

An architect and a clown walk into a bar..” -not exactly something you would expect to hear at your first national leadership conference. To our surprise, this joke was among the many unexpected things the chapter leaders of the AIAS took away from the 28th annual Grassroots Leadership Conference in Alexandria, VA this past weekend. Hosted by the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), this event took each person in attendance by immense surprise as the collaboration of leaders within the architecture profession came together to not only to educate us on how to be better leaders but to inspire us to be great leaders- to set goals, take initiative, and make an impact not only at our individual chapters but across the nation, and around the world.

Our chapter at Roger Williams University arrived at Alexandria Old Town Hilton Hotel on July 25th with six board members, traveling from all parts of the Northeast Quad. Although eager to represent our AIAS RWU chapter for the first time, each of us could not help but wonder what the next few days would entail for us as fresh faces to the “Roger Williams” name and as the new leaders of an entirely restructured, slightly less than experienced, executive board. Despite these uncertainties, AIAS RWU held their heads high and entered the conference with confidence that the opportunities that would present themselves over the next few days would ultimately shape us into better student leaders.

First stop- the U.S. Capitol Building! Although our journey there required all 60 participants to travel into Washington, DC aboard the cities metro system, we didn’t lose a single person- well except our Freedom By Design Director who we seemed to misplace multiple times over the weekend. Once there, we were treated to our own private tour by the Architect of the Capitol, who shared insight on the history of the architecture around us as well as personal stories that opened our eyes to an entirely different aspect of the profession.

Following the tour, we found ourselves at the National Building Museum which seemed more than appropriate for the opening ceremony. The 8 foot wide (or possibly more) columns that helped span the tremendous atrium space served as a great photo opportunity and challenge to see how many people it would take to wrap around it but for some reason my board just was not having it! No worries though, I am determined to get the shot next year!

While my time spent convincing someone to take the picture with me was short lived, things got serious when President Matt Barstow and Vice President Brent Castro kicked off the ceremony with speeches that assured us that their run in office had been a success and their absence would be truly missed. It was then that they passed their roles onto the 2013-2014 elected officials of the AIAS National Board (which I was proud to say I had been a part of electing at FORUM 2012-2013 in Savannah). That evening, 9 men and women stood on stage and took the Oath of Office in front of the past board members, the passionate members of the AIAS, and all 307 chapter student leaders, promising to give them -to give us- an auspicious year ahead and a dedicated support system to stand behind each initiative we set out to achieve. Personally, I think it was in that moment that I realized my place at the conference and that, among those who were sitting in front of, behind, next to me, 9 of them would one day be standing on stage, and be sworn in as President, Vice President, etc. of our national organization.

The Grassroots conference really jump started that evening with a networking reception that carried on into the wee hours of the morning; it was the first chance that the new board of AIAS RWU had to meet other schools and we tried to embrace every second of it. Throughout the next day, we heard from speakers such as Executive Director Joshua Caulfield, Vice President Jennifer Taylor, and Quad Directors, Ryan Gann, David Golden, and Obiekwe Okolo who enlightened us with personal stories and broadened our perspective. While some may find sitting through lectures uninteresting and a waste of time, I know RWU took each word, each lesson, as a blessing. In fact, I remember the exact moment that the 6 of us who came to Washington, DC representing Roger Williams became the official 2013-2014 Executive Board of our chapter- ready to lead.

Jessica Gross Roger Williams University

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