President’s Letter

2020 Presidents Letter

First, I want to thank you for trusting me to be your president. We have many talented and committed colleagues, so it is an honor. I recognize that each of you make a huge difference in our chapter.

I went to Grassroots last year and came away with the knowledge that our work and profession is very diverse, very complex and very personal.  Each of us has our own ideas, our own “way” of doing things. AIA challenges us to put aside that and to look for what is the “best” way for our chapter and profession. I applaud all of you and our members that put aside their personal issues and step forward to meet this challenge.

Grassroots also made me recognize what I am sure you all know, that there are no simple answers to the problems our communities across the country face. Many architects shared what they are doing, and the ideas that have been brought forward, but it all is a work in progress, and it generates a lot of questions.

So, my questions are:

  • How can our AIA serve our members best?
  • How can our members serve our community best?

I propose that the answer to the first question and second question is the same: it is to help our members be better architects.

Through Knowledge, Awareness, Tools, Support, Learning, Networking, and of course Friendship!

It is exciting to hear and see ideas and energy I have witnessed in many of our meetings. I know change is often good, but I want to emphasize that so much of what we have is golden. For example:

  • Our Office
  • Our Management: Rhea Williams, our Executive Director and her Karma staff, Katie and Savannah.
  • Our Programs
    • Chapter Meetings/Continuing Education
    • Design Awards
    • Government Affairs
    • Disaster Relief
    • Emerging Professionals (EPs)
    • Women in Architecture
  • Our Members

I hope that 2020 can build on our work from 2019 under Richard Simonton’s leadership. We undertook a member survey which was very informative. It is a great source of suggestions to make our chapter better. We have drafted a 5-year strategic plan which will help guide our focus. We have hosted 26 events, reaching approximately 1200 individuals. Our finances are healthy. I believe 2019 was a very good year.

My personal hope is that in 2020 we will have the opportunity to become better members of our community. I think most of you know my son is in 5th year at Auburn University’s School of Architecture. Since he started, he has shared with me his work and lessons; it has reminded me of what so many of us embraced in college: the belief that we can and should try to make the world a better place.

With that is mind, (and because you can’t do everything,) I want this year to focus on AWARENESS. Specifically, awareness of Birmingham: its challenges, problems, and opportunities. Its make-up, its neighborhoods, its history. I am very selfish in that I want the focus on our local issues, because it is personal. We can know the location, know the people and know the impact. It is not abstract when you can see and touch it.

How can we raise awareness?

  • By Listening
  • By Inviting Speakers & Leaders.
  • By Sharing Members’ Work & Knowledge of What They are Doing

Will this make a difference?

I don’t know, maybe. Maybe by making the issues known, the many talented, bright minds and good hearts of our members might create a few good ideas in response. They might share these, and it could grow. By reminding us as architects of what so many of us embraced during our education: that we should try. We are a passionate group, and I am hoping some of that passion can be harvested to make a very meaningful 2020.

I look forward to the year,

Lissy Frese