The AIA is Defined by Its Membership, It's Up to You to Help Direct It

In the following article, Michael Cowan, AIA, past president of AIA Austin and its current chapter director, discusses the value and benefits of AIA membership versus the cost.

2012 January Board Meeting: Julie Pizzo
Michael Cowan, AIA, on stage at the 2010 Texas Architects Gala.

June 03, 2012

Michael Cowan, AIA

AIA Austin Chapter Director

Many non-members list cost as the number one  “con” to joining the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Few people in the architecture profession have been exempt from money issues in the past few years, and the decision to pay AIA dues may be more of a debate now than it has been in the past. In recognition of this problem, the AIA has instituted a dues installment program that helps to mitigate immediate cost, along with a financial hardship/unemployment/partial employment waiver if needed.


“You only get out of something what you put into it.”

The real question you have to answer is whether or not AIA  dues money has value to you. To some people, the AIA simply seems to be an expensive magazine subscription or an extravagant way to add three letters to the end of a name. The best way to get a solid return on your dues investment is to get involved. The AIA is remarkably diverse in its endeavors, and all it takes to get involved is the effort to look into your local chapter to find a subject that you are interested in or that directly affects your professional career. I’m sure your local director or chapter president would love the help.


“If you don’t vote, don’t complain.”


If you research the internet for reasons non-members give for not joining the AIA, as I did when writing this, you run into some very general negative comments on why it’s a waste of money. This usually seems to be written by people who dislike the “big brother” perception of large member-organizations and who have never seen the inside of their local chapter office except to possibly attend a free Continuing Education event. What you don’t see are stories of someone who joined the AIA, became active at the local or state level, and then decided it was a waste of time. Once you get involved, and especially if you make your way into a leadership role, you get a broad perspective of all the different aspects that makeup the AIA, and you will be amazed at how much the AIA does for its membership.


“There’s an App for that.”


In the event that your local chapter doesn’t have a committee dealing with your particular practice issue or social endeavor, all you have to do is look to your regional- or national-level committees and you will likely find what you are searching for. If not,  you can always gather some like-minded architects and form your own committee at the chapter level, which will allow you to further your commitment to issues that are vital to you and the profession. The AIA is defined by its membership and it’s up to you to help direct it.



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