Associated Thoughts: School Is Back in Session

Somewhere in a dusty shoebox, a photograph exists of my first day of kindergarten. Probably fresh white socks and an oversized backpack with soccer balls emblazoned on it, with a little round face smiling that he will get to go learn phonics. I was a cute kid (if I can say so myself), and first days were always exciting–awaiting the adventures of new friends, a new teacher, a new year of learning.

I have a photo of each of my twenty first days of school, from kindergarten to college and into graduate school–not even the supposed dignity of higher education could stop that tradition–and in each one, there is that familiar glimmer of upcoming learning, of new-notebook-smell, a flickering gleam of awaiting adventure behind the classroom door.

But I imagine those photographs might look different this year. Maybe some new clothes, but more likely sweatpants and masks. Maybe at the kitchen counter, but with our laptops and webcams in the background. Maybe no studio desk or snoozing lecture hall. This is a tough year to be a design student, whether fresh to the bleary-eyed architecture buildings or returning to close out your thesis project.

For better or worse, universities are largely back in session–and we will not debate the underpinnings of those decisions here. Rather, I wonder how we address and support the realities of students, who may be learning architectural history from a dining room table, or cautiously coming into a distanced studio desk once a week for murmury feedback through a mask, or struggling to understand structural principles on your own alongside paying your tuition bill and buying only the books you really need. It’s tough to imagine.

I wish I could change this reality for you. Design education is vibrantly beautiful, a petri dish of creative energy and cheap coffee, dented egos and smudgy fingers and model magic. It is inspiring; it is gritty; it is occasionally all-consuming and brilliant. Having had the privilege of being both student and teacher, I am immensely amazed at the tenacity of students and faculty right now, fighting to keep the spirit of design education lively from kitchen tables and spare rooms, sharing the nuances and hard lessons of studio via videochats and “Can you see my screen? How ‘bout now?” What you are learning now will not be in vain, and it certainly will flavor the designs you will bring to the profession. As a discipline built on new ideas, we welcome this infusion from you, forged in the crucible of a university experience for which you never asked.

AIA Virginia, each of our regional component chapters, and every design professional I know of is here to support this fragile time for designers. From mentoring programs, internships, and financial support, to virtual networking events to whatever else we can think of, the profession of architecture–and of each of our firms and institutions–depends on the success and energy of young designers. Getting connected to AIAS at Hampton, UVA, Virginia Tech, and the WAAC opens up networks and leadership opportunities that last beyond your degree. Joining VANOMA (or NOMAS) as both BIPOC individuals and allies contributes towards confronting and eradicating white supremacy and supporting opportunities for equity in architecture. Entering (and winning) competitions serves to sharpen your design chops and is eye-catching in a portfolio. Begin drafting your resumes and start scanning your sketches for your portfolios. Read as much as you can. Write about something you are intrigued by, and submit it to a newspaper, a design publication, or a student paper. Ask for help. Consistently show up prepared and on time. These practices are always in conversation with your academic work, contributing to a rising tide of design excellence that encompasses broad skills and big ideas.

Despite it all, design students will keep designing and staying up far too late, and teachers will continue attempting to impart knowledge and resent having to give grades. In the meantime, know that the design professionals cheer you on, are here for whatever you need, and are ready to hire you. While we were students once ourselves, you will have much to teach us about adaptability, tenacity, and the benefits of human-centered design of all our built spaces.

In solidarity and action,
Michael Spory, Associate AIA

Just a Few Fun Things to Click On

Something to register for: Registration for AIA Virginia’s annual conference is up and running! Under the banner of Foresight 2020, this year’s trio of programs(ArchEX, Design Forum, and Visions for Architecture) has gone virtual, with a killer lineup, with lots of discounted options for educational, professional, and networking programs during the entire month of November. Take special note of the speaker lineup for Design Forum on Thursday, November 5–with presentations from partner Kristen Murray from Olson Kundig and David Lewis from LTL Architects, and a keynote from Steven Holl himself.

Something for Virginia emerging professionals: Join us for YAFcon 2020: The Empathic Architect, which is a week-long virtual series of engaging conversations about designing and practicing with intentionality. Join your fellow EPs the week of Oct. 26–Oct. 30 for a daily series of peer-led discussions over lunch, and presentations by purposeful — sometimes unconventional — leaders each evening. Registration is intentionally kept low-cost to make it easy to attend–it’s only ten bucks for students!

*YAFcon is an annual gathering of the Young Architect’s Forum (YAF), which promotes the professional growth and leadership development of emerging professionals, including early and mid-career architects and unlicensed professionals on both traditional and non-traditional career paths.

Someone to know at Hampton: Robert Easter is the faculty advisor for AIAS and NOMAS at Hampton, and Shahada Allah (President; and Shanice Robinson (Secretary and Immediate Past-President, are the leaders of the Hampton chapters. Wherever you might be, they would love to hear from you about getting connected to other Pirates!

Someone to know at Virginia Tech: Kevin Jones ( is the faculty advisor of AIAS at Virginia Tech, which also hosts a chapter at the Washington Alexandria Architecture Center (WAAC), and the AIAS leader is Ben Sturkie. Also, CL Bohannon ( is the faculty advisor for NOMAS, which is leader by Aria Hill ( Hokies are everywhere!

Someone to know at UVA: Phoebe Crisman ( is the faculty advisor for AIAS at UVA. She can get you in touch with the right people. 

Some ways to take action at your school: Along with the national NOMA organization and the about-to-launch VANOMA, each of the Virginia design schools has active chapters of NOMAS. Contact leaders at UVA, HamptonVirginia Tech to learn more about diving in as a leader or ally. Some ARE testing updates from NCARB: Testing in person is (almost certainly) coming! We expect that on Monday, November 16, 2020, candidates can schedule remote-proctored appointments, while still being able to test in-person at Prometric test centers. The actual ARE content and division structure will not change–more information about exam delivery changes will be released in mid-September. NCARB expects to release updated ARE Guidelines, ARE Handbook, and a new demo exam in October. These changes will keep the exam’s rigor, while providing candidates with greater flexibility and accessibility. In summer 2021, NCARB is slated to switch to a new test administration vendor, for both in-person and remote testing. Visit NCARB’s website for details.  

Be Nicer Than You Really Are

Many years ago, our firm rented an office in a historic brick and timber frame building in downtown Winchester. In several locations there was historic graffiti, inked in cursive, inscribed on the wooden columns and beams. The most prominent piece of graffiti was one which said 1917 – Country is hell all over. All of us in the office thought that the inscription was referring to when the U.S. entered into World War I. Little did anyone know back then that, in the spring of 1918, the ‘Spanish’ flu pandemic would soon come along, eventually killing roughly 675,000 people in the U.S. and a staggering 50 million worldwide. Now, a little over a century later, we are living through another frightening and vast, worldwide pandemic, with all of its social and economic repercussions. 

Beth Reader, FAIA

Thinking back to that building and its graffiti, I remember that it was there that my co-workers and I would sometimes encourage each other to “be nicer than you really are!” When one of us would get irritated and annoyed with a client or a builder or an engineer or whomever, we’d say that catchphrase to one another, in order to prevent us from saying or emailing something curt or unkind, something not easily retracted.

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, there are signs everywhere about hand washing, masks, and social distancing. I would like to propose that we add another sign, one instructing people to be nicer than they really are. All of us are struggling these days, to different degrees. Job loss, social isolation, looming evictions, underlying health issues, uncertainty about the economy, racial injustice, political discord… really, it’s overwhelming. It’s no wonder that anxiety and depression are rising among Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone is just trying to cope the best they know how. 

We all recognize that architects can and should use their skills to make their communities better, by doing socially relevant work, creating architecture that inspires and uplifts, and volunteering their time and talents in a myriad of ways. In addition to their important, more long-term career citizen architect work, architects can, on a daily basis, use their design thinking to help solve big things but also small things. They can try to fix or avoid conflicts rather than always having to win an argument or a difference of opinion. Architects also need to be empathetic and kind, and give people the benefit of the doubt. We are leaders, and we should all ask how we can make things better– the projects we take, the ones we don’t, the design priorities within our work. Check in on your colleagues in the office and on young emerging professionals, who are facing a severely constricted job market. Find out if your clients or builders are stressed, and give them some help and encouragement. Instead of being nicer than you really are, try to be as kind and empathetic to people as you possibly can.

Now that we own our office building, it’s tempting to scribble some graffiti ourselves: 2020 – Country is hell all over. But then, on the other hand, maybe we should just inscribe the Elvis Costello line: 2020 –What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?”   

With best regards,

Annual Meeting and Slate of Officers Announced

Hear about vital developments with your professional society, elect officers and conduct other business at the AIA Virginia Annual Meeting of the Membership. The meeting will be held during Architecture Exchange East Wednesday, Nov. 4 from 4:15 to 5:15 p.m. There is no charge to attend the Membership Meeting.

Register for the annual meeting through the Foresight 2020 event portal>>

The 2020 Nominating Committee has placed the following members for nomination for 2021:

Per Section 6.04 of the Bylaws, Sean Reilly, AIA [AIA Northern Virginia] will succeed to President.

President-Elect: Robert Easter, FAIA [AIA Richmond]
Vice President of Advocacy: Kathy Galvin, AIA* [AIA Central Virginia]
Vice President of Education: Krystal Anderson, AIA* [AIA Richmond]
Secretary: Bill Hopkins, AIA [AIA Hampton Roads]

*Elected last year to fill an unexpired term (finished one year of service in 2020)

At the Last Board Meeting

AIA Virginia | 2020 Board of Directors
August 7, 2020
Zoom Virtual Meeting

Motions Made and Approved:

The Board of Directors of AIA Virginia voted as follows:

  • Approval of June 26, 2020 Meeting Minutes
  • Approval of the AIA Virginia Honors Awards as proposed by the Honors Committee
  • Approval of using donations from the 2020 Visions for Architecture to support Hampton University’s architecture program
  • Approval of the 2021 Slate of Officers for presentation at the Annual Meeting as proposed by the Nominating Committee
  • Approval of granting the President the authority to cast final votes for AIA National candidates for office at her discretion on behalf of AIA Virginia

Written reports were provided for the following consent agenda items:

  • PAC Update                                                                                                   
  • Membership Update
  • Amber Book Update
  • Foresight 2020 Update
  • Virginia NOMA Update                                                          
  • Emerging Leaders in Architecture Update
  • Mid-Career Stage Leadership Program Update                                           
  • Operation: Reach, Retain, and Develop Update                                          
  • AIA/ACEC Joint Virginia Disparity Study Letter                                            
  • AIA Virginia Participating in Virginia Energy Plan                                         

Members may request a copy of these written reports by emailing AIA Virginia Executive Vice President, Corey Clayborne, FAIA at

The next meeting of the 2020 AIA Virginia Board of Directors will take place Friday, October 9, 2020.

Newly Licensed

We understand the dedication and effort required to study for and pass the ARE. Congratulations to the following member for passing their exams and gaining licensure. This is great news that thrills all of us and we are so proud to call you architect!

Mr. Casey P. Walker, AIA (Blue Ridge)

Have you recently passed the ARE? Upgrade your membership to Architect using this AIA form. or send an email to your Member Services Director, Cathy Guske,

New Members

We are always excited to welcome new members to Virginia. The following members recently joined the ranks of AIA Virginia.

New Architect Members

Mr. Jeff Bushman, AIA (Central Virginia)
Mr. Gibson Worsham, AIA (Richmond)

New Associate Members

Mr. Bradley Foster, Assoc. AIA (Hampton Roads)
Miss Runjie Liu, Assoc. AIA (Northern Virginia)
Ms. Dipal Patel, Assoc. AIA (Northern Virginia)
Mr. Matthew A. Yashar, Assoc. AIA (Northern Virginia)

Transferred In

Mr. Christopher T. Hazell, AIA from AIA Maryland (Richmond)
Ms. Marium Rahman, Assoc. AIA from AIA DC (Northern Virginia)

AIA Virginia Allied Members

View all of the AIA Virginia Allied members

Visions for Architecture Goes Online in 2020; Raises Money for Scholarships

We’re doing things differently at Visions for Architecture this year. To keep everyone safer, our annual honors and awards program will take place online on Thursday, Oct. 8 beginning at 4:30 p.m. The program is free, but advance registration is required. We’re trying some new things — like announcing the Design Awards live — with the goal of creating a vibrant celebration of the people and organizations who mean so much to our profession.

In the past, this black-tie gala recognizing AIA Virginia’s Honors and Design Award winners has served as a fundraiser to support a wide range of architectural education.

At Visions 2020, we’d like to get more specific with our fundraising efforts. Our friends at Hampton University need our direct support and we’re asking you to join the cause.

In addition to recognizing our honorees, Visions will serve as a mini telethon to raise money to support Hampton University’s department of architecture Scholarship Fund. Hampton has a 5-year Master of Architecture program. Students in their final year of the program lose access to the traditional undergraduate financial aid such as Pell Grants. This fund directly helps these students when many funding streams are no longer available to them.

Support Virginia’s only HBCU with an accredited architecture program by making a charitable contribution today.

Since tickets to Visions are free this year (and there’s no travel cost or formalwear to purchase) we’re asking you to consider making a donation in the amount you might have spent to join us in person. Below are some suggested giving levels, but no amount is too small.

  • Champion: $600
  • Advocate: $400
  • Supporter: $200
  • Believer: $100
  • Friend: $25

Your gift will directly, and meaningfully, contribute to diversity in the profession. Please give today.

About Visions for Architecture

Visions for Architecture, created in 1998, is AIA Virginia’s annual Honors and Awards gala.

Visions celebrates the achievements of those whose work makes especially strong contributions to society and celebrates the recipients of AIA Virginia’s Honors Awards and the Awards for Excellence in Architecture.

Visions for Architecture 2020 will be held virtually and delivered through our online event platform Foresight 2020. Tickets are free, but advance registration is required. If you’re planning on attending any of the educational programming, Visions for Architecture is included free with all ticket options. If you’re only planning to attend Visions, select the Visions for Architecture and Social Events Only ticket when you register.

Visions for Architecture is generously sponsored by:

Glave & Holmes Architecture, PC
MEB General Contractors
O’Hagan Meyer
Phoenix Noise

Commercial Lighting Sales
Ehlert Bryan
Frazier Associates
Hartranft Lighting Design, LLC
Linton Engineering LLC
MSStudioarchitecture LLC
Provectus, Inc.
Reader & Swartz Architects
The Communicate Design Foundation
VIA design architects
Walter L. Phillips, Inc.

Alloy Architecture and Construction
Altruistic Design
Ashwood Financial Partners
Colley Architects, P.C.
Conkey Architects
KEi Architects
Lee/Shoemaker PLLC
MTFA Architecture
R.C. Fields & Associates
Riverside Brick & Supply
Wiseman Family – Wiseman Design

Virtual and Augmented Reality Research Survey

The INFORM Lab research team from Virginia Tech is seeking to understand the perceived value of Virtual and Augmented Reality within the Architectural, Engineering, and Construction Industry. This study will explore how industry members perceive these technologies and involves a 5-minute voluntary survey to collect data. The results of this study will be used by researchers to better adapt this technology to the industry. We would greatly appreciate anyone willing to take the survey (linked below) and help with this research!

If you are interested in the outcome of the study, please contact James Sims at If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the principle investigator Dr. Farrokh Jazizadeh at Your input will be invaluable in shaping this research (IRB# 20-298)!

Survey link:

Save the Date: Visions for Architecture

AIA Virginia’s annual Honors and Awards gala, Visions for Architecture, will take place online on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020 beginning at 4:30 p.m.

Visions for Architecture,created in 1998, celebrates the achievements of those whose work makes especially strong contributions to society and celebrates the recipients of AIA Virginia’s Honors Awards and the Awards for Excellence in Architecture.

Visions for Architecture 2020 will be held virtually and delivered through our online event platform Foresight 2020.

In the past, proceeds from Visions have been designated to support educational programming. This year, tickets will be free — but we’ll be making a very special request of everyone who joins us.

Virginia’s only architecture program in an HBCU needs your support. We’ll be asking you to consider making a donation to Hampton University’s architecture department. Stay tuned for more information and save the date for Oct. 8!