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Relevance Starts Here: A Path Towards Student Loan Exemption

Brent Castro, recent graduate of the UT, Knoxville, School of Architecture, is the National Vice President Elect of the American Institute of Architecture Students

By Brent Castro -- Throughout my years as an active member of the American Institute of Architecture Students, I have been truly humbled to be surrounded by hundreds of my peers within the academy who are doing more for their education by being a part of the AIAS than just focusing on the studio process. As collective group, we are allowing the AIAS to become a part of our learning processes. 

I am proud to say that the AIAS is not just resume filler for our members. Instead we are using it as a catalyst for growth as designers and stewards of the built environment. By being strong leaders we communicate a vision of diligent service to causes outside ourselves. Such leadership, if practiced correctly will positively affect our culture and the communities that we will live and work within.

I don’t doubt that a few of us initially dreamt of becoming world renowned architects. However, over time my personal definition of renowned has changed. There is a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stating, "Not everybody can be famous. But everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service." The imperative actor service is why this organization stands and it is why we are here. The AIAS will always be here to serve this student population by acting as a strong voice for members as they in turn are voices speaking out on behalf of their student bodies and communities.


The organizations commitment to introspection has allowed us to continually check the actions that we take–making sure that they serve this student population to the fullest. The AIAS is not accustomed to stagnation. We move, we change, we improve and these actions are imperative. The architects and scholars we idolize would not have us simply continue accepting the norm in regards to our work. They would have us question our moves and further those arguments. The same principle applies to our organization.


I am well informed about the great challenges that our profession faces domestically and across the world, therefore I feel strongly this is a pivotal time for furthering our objectives and taking intelligent, well informed steps forward with Freedom by Design, civic engagement, advocacy and greater involvement with the profession and

our own education. We must remain a strong and relevant resource for our members as students and emerging professionals. These objectives are essential for the AIAS to become more relevant as a national

organization in addition to fostering and sustaining connections within the global design community.


What does relevance mean for architecture students? We live in a world of economic angst, social inequality, and joblessness, all overshadowed by the threat of ecological demise. Our politicians find difficulty in reaching consensus while our dependency on oil remains headstrong and all the while graduates struggle to begin careers. We are all but immune to recurring words like “recession” and “disaster”. In this context our creative and analytical education and passion for the world we build for future generations make architecture students particularly relevant.


Relevance comes naturally to members of the AIAS: we are leaders within our schools, examples in our communities and voices in a global level that can -- and have -- made difference. - Nick Mancusi and Laura Meador- CritBorderless 


These differences can be seen through thecharge to mandate paid internships for students and through the continued support of the AIAS’s initiated studio culture movement where living documents outline the path towards a successful studio environment between students and their educators.


As we all know, students are faced with ever-increasing tuition rates for our education and because of this a major priority of the American Institute of Architecture Students this year has been the pursuit of Student Loan Forgiveness and rallying the support of our endeavor to expand our advocacy efforts. We have reached out to our collateral partners [AIA, ACSA, NCARB and NAAB] and have asked for their support with much success. The federal loan exemptions/deferment already exists for graduates of law, medicine and education and it is a great injustice towards our profession and to our graduating students that this option is not available to those of whom want to join the military, work for anon-profit or practice in a pro-bono manner.


Federal student loan forgiveness is an obvious answer to many of the challenges our profession and economic future faces. AIA President Jeffrey Potter, FAIA, is onboard to help advocate within the national government and commended these efforts and foresight.


As you all know, The AIAS represents the collective voice of architecture students. AIAS members have expressed a desire to use their voice to make a difference, and to be more relevant. In response, the AIAS Board of Directors has initiated an Advocacy taskforce. Our pursuit of the Federal Student Loan Forgiveness is a multiple-year process that requires assistance from all students of architecture.


To make a solid case to US legislators, the AIAS needs qualitative and quantitative data. The AIAS will produce a video that shows the importance of Architects to society.



We need your help! Please submit a short1-2 minute video of yourself answering the following three questions:

§  What is an Architect?

§  Why do Architects matter?

§  Describe a world without Architects. 

Please upload your video here: www.aias.org/videoupload. Please include a cover sheet with your name, chapter name, and year in school.


This is your chance to use your voice and be more relevant as an architecture student. Use this opportunity to help us shape a better future for you. Together, we can show this country our passion for architecture and service to those affected by the built environment. To move forward we have to be able give back. If we continue to be critical of the norm while never staying stagnant in our efforts we will see success.


Originally printed in stud. magazine, vol. II, ed. III. May 2012. A publication of the AIAS Chapter of the UT, Knoxville, College of Architecture and Design. 

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