Starting a new year comes with new habits, new mindsets, and for me, new responsibilities! 2022 is shaping up to be a year of growth as I serve as AIA Virginia’s Associate Director, and I definitely have big shoes to fill. Michael Spory’s passion to serve has left a mark on our Virginia communities, and it is my honor to continue his work in creating and maintaining those community connections across Virginia over the next two years.
My path into architecture has not been linear, but my passion for design has always brought me back. In 2016, I started James Madison University’s Architectural Design program and knew I had found my home. Architecture became such a large part of my life that I wanted more, so I attended some architecture firm tours to better understand the kind of work architects do. After visiting The Gaines Group and hearing about their community-driven mission for healthier and more sustainable designs, I knew I wanted to work with them, and started interning while still a sophomore at JMU. Three years later, in 2020, I graduated from JMU with a BFA in Architectural Design and minor in studio art, and a gained a full-time design position with The Gaines Group.
Graduating at the start of a global pandemic was terrifying; I didn’t know if I would have a job, a place to live, or even a future in architecture. Everything was put on hold, and while I was fortunate to have mentors at The Gaines Group who looked out for their employees, I knew there were people I graduated with who did not have that same fortune. It felt like a void of missing architecture graduates, and as I started navigating the transition of full-time student to full-time designer/intern, it became increasingly isolating and draining. Where were all the other new professionals? Was I the only one struggling with the school-to-work transition? My Gaines Group mentor and I started monthly Emerging Professionals virtual meetings, where students and young professionals from across the U.S. joined and heard from architects, engineers, and even other emerging professionals about our industry as a whole. Creating those connections was a game-changer! I joined several professional organizations and groups, including AIA, CSI, and Young Architect, and gained my CDT certification through CSI to improve my understanding of the design process.
The biggest game-changer came when I joined AIA Virginia’s mentorship program, where I met Corey Clayborne and my mentor, Beth Reader. Beth and I met monthly and learned so much from each other as we discussed our perspectives on architecture, her path as an architect and firm-owner, and my questions on how to become an architect that successfully serves their clients, their community, and even their industry. Our pairing was a match made in heaven, so in 2021, we spoke about the benefits of finding and serving as a mentor at the 2021 AIAS Grassroots Conference. I can say for myself that I am the epitome of an extroverted introvert, so giving a virtual presentation at a national conference was a significant step out of my comfort zone. However, after chatting with the attendees over our shared passion for architecture and achieving our goals, stepping out of that zone became a lot less scary. Long story short, that’s why I’m here; to strengthen the future of architecture by starting with the future architects. (…and if you also want to chat about cool designs and historic buildings, I am here for you.)
Now that I’ve shared a little bit about myself, I would love to connect and hear from you about what your goals are and how I can help you step out of your comfort zone. The pandemic continues to limit our in-person meetings, but I am always available for a virtual happy hour or coffee break, or even a chat over email or LinkedIn. (Although if you’d like to meet my 9 week-old sproodle puppy, Zoom calls are the way to go.)
I am here to represent YOU, Associate members, so let’s chat about what we need to become a successful generation of architects and designers.
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Caitlin Morgan, CDT, CSI, Assoc. AIA