Rona Rothenberg, FAIA, Looks Back and Forth

AIA California honored Colleagues!

At this milestone in our ongoing work together, and as I look forward to new challenges ahead in my professional life that beckon, it seems that reflection is appropriate and timely.

I have had the privilege of great mentors, co-workers, staff and consultants throughout my work in practice in the early years of my professional life, and then over the many years that I worked on-staff in higher education, health care, and then almost two decades in California government. One constant in my experience over my career is the AIA.

As someone working outside traditional design practice I have always found support, resources, interesting events and people from all over doing all types of work, consultants I met along the way as the owner’s rep and then there were the wonderful conventions. I always looked forward to going if I could afford it, it was a desirable city and venue and if my employer allowed it, and particularly loved the Expos where you could learn anything about everything in the building world, get cute tchotchkes for the kids, a little espresso at the gorgeous Italian Tile booth, enter the raffles, pick up a stuffed Pink Panther at PPG (my mother-in-law still has one of these in her room and I just got another one for our granddaughter in Chicago!), participate in panels, and have a blast on tours, at lectures, COF celebrations and other events.

Until I was rather unexpectedly nominated by the AIASF Board to AIACA in 2015, my experience with AIA had been vested in the Knowledge Communities for many years and as a member of the College of Fellows from 2008. As a Chair, conference chair, juror, lecturer, panelist, author and advisory group member of the Public Architects Knowledge Community and the Academy of Architecture for Justice, I have been immersed in sharing, getting and giving subject matter expertise with public sector architects from all over the world. I had no idea that I could top this experience, which fortunately continues through our generous, resilient, and energetic network of architects from the military, from federal, state and local government service across the U.S. and from university and college architects far and wide. Then I joined the Board of AIA California!

Rona Rothenberg, FAIA

I have been very proud to work with this Board over the past 8 years. I never thought my first, humble 2-year term would grow into a gratifying and unforgettable personal and professional experience, collaborating with all of you, among the most talented, committed and inspiring colleagues across diverse generations, backgrounds, educational paths, races and genders, and career paths. I could hardly have imagined: leading the advocacy program with the unforgettable and talented Mark Christian, Hon. AIA CA, having planned countless meetings with our wonderful EVP Nicki Dennis Stephens, Hon. AIA, and working to develop, support and advance all of the important work and programs we have accomplished together.

Among our many accomplishments a few examples are:

  • Leadership in a large and active Climate Action Committee led so capably by Bill Leddy, FAIA—with unanimous Board support of a Zero Code in 2019, followed by declaration of a climate emergency, advocacy statewide for all-electric ordinance adoption; passage of AB1010 Net Zero Carbon Education requirement for license renewal and related advocacy, education and communication programs for members;
  • Formation of an EDI Committee with leadership by Debra Gerod, FAIA, resulting in training and education sessions, development of a policy and statement and a toolkit of materials for members and firms; • Seamless passing of AIA CA’s legacy of leadership and image from Paul Welch Jr., Hon. AIA, to Nicki Dennis Stephens, Hon. AIA, staff and program development and evolution and design, construction and occupancy of new offices and a shift during and after the pandemic to new models of service to chapters and members both virtual and in person with continued responsible staff and financial management in place;
  • Growth of practice, educational and professional pipeline development programs in a collaborative effort of EVP, Practice, EDI leadership and the California Architectural Foundation including a Summit on the Future and generous funding by the Board for investment in new and continuing programs in the schools and beyond;
  • Continuation and stewardship of the strong advocacy programs established and grown by Mark Christian, Hon. AIA CA, and smooth transition to Scott Terrell;
  • Completion of a visionary and timely update to the 2023-25 Strategic Plan; and
  • Ongoing outreach and support to chapters to optimize resources statewide for members including the COF fellowship program, grants and scholarships, software and practice tools, liaison networks and related tools and opportunities.

I know you all share my pride in our collective work and that it will carry forward in your capable hands. You have my full support so please do call on me if I can add value to your future work. Some of you have asked what’s next for me to which I respond: “Stay tuned!”

And thank you again for the experience of contributing to the future of our profession and the betterment of society through the Mission, Vision, Values and Strategic Goals and Objectives.

I am affectionately and with optimism—Yours truly, Rona

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