By Chitika Vasudeva
Leadership, design, and service – these are the founding pillars of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), a national, student-run organization “dedicated to providing unmatched progressive programs, information, and resources on issues critical to architecture and the experience of education.” Therefore, it is only fitting that the organization has become a central part of student culture in Carnegie Mellon’s School of Architecture. AIAS CMU has been a fixture at the SoA for nearly half a century. In that time, the student-run chapter, supported by a faculty advisor and the School as a whole, has gone on to become highly decorated at the national level.
AIAS CMU is not unfamiliar with success. The organization has accomplished much, both at the chapter and the national levels, including hosting AIAS FORUM in 2001, the Northeast Quad conference in 2016, and winning the Chapter Honor Award at FORUM 2016. The most recent feather in its cap is the election of former Chapter President Amelia (Amy) Rosen (B.Arch ‘17, MSSD ‘17) as the 2018-19 AIAS National President. Rosen has a long history of leadership within the organization, beginning with her election to the AIAS CMU board and eventually the AIAS National Board of Directors, first as Northeast Quad Director, and now as President.
When asked what AIAS has contributed to her professional and personal life, Rosen credits the AIAS with planting the seed for the need to be more well-rounded. Andrew Caruso (B.Arch ’07), who served as AIAS National President from 2007-08 echoes the sentiment, explaining that part of going to architecture school is becoming aware of one’s presence in and potential influence on a larger conversation. Caruso sees architecture students connecting with one another as an important part of their journey through college, and AIAS was a seminal part of that collective experience for him.
“Looking back at my decision to come to CMU, this would have been one of the leading reasons for me to enroll,” said Caruso, reflecting on the organization’s potential to become a vehicle to inform students about the educational and professional environment they are about to step into.
Rosen stands on the shoulders of a host of SoA giants who have established a three-decade-long legacy of national leadership in the AIAS. These Carnegie Mellon alumni have progressed from serving as student leaders to becoming leaders in the profession, exemplifying how the AIAS in specific, and CMU in general, set students up for achievement and influence. In 1990, David Kunselman (B.Arch ‘90) became the first AIAS National Vice President to hail from CMU, followed by Christine Malecki West (B.Arch ‘93) in 1993. The next generation of leaders came in 2002, as the election of Lawrence Fabbroni (B.Arch ’01, M.S. ‘02) as AIAS National President gave AIAS CMU the impetus for an extremely active run in national leadership. Fabbroni was followed by Katherine Bojsza (B.Arch ‘03, B.S. ‘03) serving as the 2003-04 National Vice President, and Caruso’s term as the 2007-08 National President.
If the past is truly prologue, Rosen’s term as President will prove to be a catalyst for leadership and advocacy in the generation of torchbearers that finds her at its head. “We are designers, we are leaders, we are advocates,” Rosen declared during her presidential campaign at FORUM 2017. “We are movers, we are shakers, we are change-makers. We are the American Institute of Architecture Students.”
Chitika Vasudeva is a third-year Bachelor of Architecture student in the Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture. She currently serves as Treasurer of AIAS CMU, in addition to serving on the AIAS National Advocacy Task Force. She is also a member of the editorial team of inter·punct, a student-run journal supported by the SoA.