This past spring semester, DIS student Kate S. – an Environmental Design major at the University of Colorado Boulder – co-founded AIAS Abroad, a chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) for young architects and designers studying abroad. We sat down with Kate to learn about AIAS Abroad and the opportunities it has brought for DIS students:
DIS: What is AIAS?
Kate S: AIAS is the American Institute of Architecture Students. Essentially it is the student organization of the AIA (American Institute of Architects), and there are chapters across the United States. I am co-president of the AIAS chapter at University of Colorado Boulder.
DIS: What is AIAS Abroad?
KS: AIAS Abroad is a subchapter of AIAS that has never been done before. Our description of AIAS Abroad is: “A place for AIAS members traveling or studying abroad to find each other and to communicate ideas among the members in the region.” The initial goal of the program is meant to be an opportunity where students abroad can meet up and visit architecture, go on firm tours, network with professionals, or just hang out and meet new friends while abroad.
AIAS Abroad has been an amazing experience because it has allowed myself and students in the design community to have the opportunity to meet other students, and explore and engage with [Copenhagen] and Danish design.”
There are international chapters but none in Europe, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to start something while abroad. These international chapters are registered with AIAS as permanent chapters. AIAS Abroad is different in that it is meant to be targeted towards temporary students studying abroad anywhere. Essentially, we were hoping it could be used with any study abroad location, but Copenhagen ended up being the only study abroad group doing it because I was essentially the guinea pig to see how it could work.
DIS: How did you get the idea to create AIAS Abroad?
KS: AIAS has been such a big part of my college experience that it felt abnormal to not have it during my abroad experience, especially when we’re in such an amazing area for great design. I looked to see if DIS offered an architecture club but they didn’t. So, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to meet new students and check out areas that we don’t get to for class.
The idea for AIAS Abroad started in the fall of 2017 when we realized that half of our AIAS board at the University of Colorado Boulder was going to study abroad in Copenhagen during the coming spring semester. I started a joke that we might as well start an abroad AIAS chapter because so many of us were going to Copenhagen. Ideally, I did want AIAS Abroad to actually happen but I didn’t think it was a possibility at the time.
It is always very exciting and rewarding after an event, such as our firm tour with BIG, to see so many students inspired and excited about their future in design.”
However, it turned into a possibility when I realized that this could actually be something really unique and that DIS didn’t have an architecture club. I reached out to our national vice president at the time, Elizabeth Seidel, and she was extremely excited to try and make this work.
In December 2017, I attended Forum, our AIAS national convention where I continued to talk to Elizabeth and others about the idea, and the organization decided that they wanted me to pursue it. After arriving in Copenhagen in January 2018, I started working with Elizabeth to get a Facebook page up and running so that we could start posting about AIAS Abroad. I then started working on creating a committee of students to help me. We already had four of our Board members from University of Colorado Boulder but I wanted to reach out to other students. Eventually, we created an AIAS Abroad Committee!
Then, we started meeting and discussing what events would be most beneficial to have. I led the meetings to begin with. At some point, we decided we wanted a better way of marketing AIAS Abroad and I asked a committee member to reach out to DIS to see if we could get access to Canvas, the online portal that students use to communicate with faculty, submit homework, and obtain materials for class. We used Canvas to notify students about AIAS Abroad meetings and events. After a few more board meetings we came up with a list of things to do. We mainly focused on firms to visit, construction events, other site visits, and ways to get people engaged and connected. We were trying to aim at events that aren’t just for architecture students but everyone in design, people who just had an interest in architecture and design in general, and those who wanted to get out and explore Copenhagen with new friends.
So far we have organized a trip to the Danish Design Museum, a firm tour with BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), a construction tour of one of the new metro stations, and then a firm tour at 3XN Architects.
Other students that made AIAS Abroad possible:
Ann D., University of Colorado Boulder
Kyle B., University of Colorado Boulder
Luke S., University of Colorado Boulder
Abby C., University of Colorado Boulder
Amanda C., Cornell University
Ruth W., Mount Holyoke
Calvin R., University of Minnesota
Carl-Emil LJ., Technical University of Denmark
Fiona T., University of Michigan