TxA’s president-elect and committee chairs share about their paths into leadership and their advice for getting involved.
As new opportunities for active civic engagement arise, TxA aims to promote transparency through their committee appointment process by creating a Call for Interest form to provide “a way for individuals to promote themselves and express interest in the work of the Society without relying on relationships to those already involved,” according to TxA President-Elect Audrey Maxwell, AIA. To gain further perspective about the impacts of committee involvement within Texas, I spoke with Maxwell and the Design and Educational Outreach Committee co-chairs Maria Gomez, AIA, and Samantha Markham, AIA, to learn about their individual experiences and committee roles.
Historically, how have committee chairs and members been selected?
Maxwell: Committee members and chairs are often selected from within the committee via word of mouth referrals and introductions. My business partner and mentor, Michael Malone, FAIA, was involved with the publications committee and knew of my interest in writing. He recommended me as a member of the committee and introduced me to the editor at the time, Catherine Gavin. I wrote my first article for Texas Architect in the winter of 2012 and joined the publications committee in 2013. The TxA bylaws stipulate that the president has oversight of the committees and their structure, so occasionally chairs and even members are appointed by the president.
Why is there now a Call for Interest for committee involvement?
Maxwell: The Call for Interest is an important way to engage members who might not otherwise have a connection to the Society. If we rely only on our existing networks, we risk leaving many members behind. The Call for Interest is a way for individuals to promote themselves and express interest in the work of the Society without relying on relationships to those already involved.
As the 2021 TxA president, what do you hope will come from the Call for Interest? How might this shape and impact the committees and the work they accomplish?
Maxwell: I am hopeful the Call for Interest will provide a more inclusive pathway to leadership for our members. As we continue to push our equity, diversity, and inclusion goals, it is important that we offer a transparent process for those interested in engaging with us as volunteer leaders. This is one channel by which we can identify a more diverse pool of candidates. The committees stand to benefit from the views and experiences a broader representation of members will bring. I imagine it could greatly influence the focus of various committees, the decisions they make on behalf of the membership, and the values they promote.
If someone wants to get involved with a particular committee, what would your advice be for them? Besides filling out the Call for Interest form.
Maxwell: My advice for those wanting to get involved is to raise your hand and never be afraid to promote yourself. Contact the committee chair or the president and express interest in the opportunity. It always helps to have someone to advocate on your behalf, but if that resource does not exist, don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself. Once you are involved, commit to the work, participate in the conversations, and make yourself invaluable.
How will the Call for Interest submissions be considered? We understand this can vary from committee to committee, and we would like to be transparent about what people can expect after they fill out the form.
Maxwell: There is no recent precedent for a Call for Interest process. The submissions will be shared with committee chairs and the vice president that oversees that commission. I will personally be advocating for committees to consider and vet the list of responders. Most committees will have three to four openings each year, so there are limited spots available. The process will evolve based on our experience this year, and I hope it will become institutionalized.
Following this discussion with Maxwell, I had the opportunity to learn the perspective of two other TxA committee chairs, Maria Gomez, AIA, and Samantha Markham, AIA.
How did you get involved with TxA and how did you come to be the chair of your committee?
Gomez: I had been involved for many years in AIA Dallas’ Design Awards program and the board, so someone threw my name in the hat for the Design Awards committee. I’ve learned if you are genuinely interested and always willing to volunteer for assignments, you will get noticed by those leading the group.
Markham: I had attended the TxA Conference before but became more involved when I was nominated, and accepted the position, to be the TxA director for AIA Dallas. I was extremely excited to get involved at the state level, and I was quickly exposed to all the great committees and initiatives that TxA has to offer. At the end of last year, an opportunity arose to be part of the Education Outreach committee, which was also in need of a chair. A couple of colleagues suggested I might be a good fit for the role, and I happily accepted. I’ve been involved locally in programs like the ACE Mentor Program, UTA’s CAMP, and other DFW high school programs, so to have the chance to work with others across the state to provide resources and opportunities for K–12 all over Texas is an amazing opportunity.
Why did you get involved with your committee?
Gomez: I’ve always really enjoyed volunteering for Design Awards. You are always exchanging information with others about architects around the country and the world who are doing incredible work. My favorite part is meeting the jurors in person and having the opportunity to get to know them. Of course, this year has been a bit different since we had to shift everything to a virtual platform. Listening to the jurors deliberating around the projects they are into is quite rewarding. There are some fascinating discussions when points of view differ.
Markham: At the end of 2019, when the position came up, I immediately started reaching out to previous committee members about the EOC’s history and what their mission had been so that we could continue to build upon it. I’ve helped with our local educational outreach chair previously, but the end of last year was the start of my involvement with TxA.
How has your participation in the committee impacted you? What things did you advocate for or wish to see advanced in the future?
Gomez: I truly believe that volunteering in AIA is a great way to network and be more connected to our profession. It is also important for me to give back and contribute since I have gotten so much out of it. In the future, I think it would be great for the Design Awards program to grow into an event that celebrates the awards at a higher level.
Markham: It’s been inspiring to have such incredible committee members to work with – they are all so involved with their local communities in advancing architecture and design through supporting and teaching students. It makes me want to do more, and I am honored to work so closely with them. As a committee, we truly hope that we can make architecture more accessible to all students so that no matter your background, if you want to be an architect, you can be an architect! And, we will do all we can to help them get there.
Gabriella Bermea, Assoc. AIA, is an emerging professional with VLK Architects and chair-elect of Latinos in Architecture in Austin. She currently serves as a member of the TxA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee.