Michelle Mantegna, AIA, NCARB, EDAC, (center) took part in NCARB’s inaugural Re-Think Tank. Read her thoughts on the community, the path to licensure, and giving back to the profession. Applications for this year’s Re-Think Tank are now open!
All the statistics said the odds were stacked against me becoming a registered architect: I was a female graduating from school during the Great Recession. While architecture had navigated the market roller coaster before, the market fell off a sharp ridge in 2007, as I was searching for my first job out of my undergraduate studies. Finding a job was difficult, to say the least, and I was discouraged by the number of peers leaving the profession. All obstacles aside, I continued the path to become a licensed architect. I attended graduate school, and shortly after passing the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®) in 2015, became a registered architect in the state of Arizona. I was overwhelmed by my accomplishment, and to this day can’t imagine another career that could have been more enjoyable or fulfilling.
I attribute much of my success to readily available online study resources, an encouraging study group, a supportive firm, and reassuring mentors within the profession. I quickly recognized architecture as a profession that held the benefit of having a strong social network and supportive associations. This sentiment was paralleled when I found out NCARB was reaching out to recently licensed architects to become a part of a thought group to reimagine the licensure process—the Re-Think Tank.
In March 2018, 12 individuals from all backgrounds and experiences were invited to meet in Washington, DC, to workshop new ideas and provide feedback on NCARB programs, both current and future. We discussed life before and after architecture licensure; identified challenges and opportunities throughout the licensure process; recommended resources and tools to support supervisors and mentors; and explored the meaning of welfare verses well-being. The three-day session was a combination of presentations, group activities, and debates followed by a group dinner every night where more stories were shared. Our efforts and suggestions were kindly heard by NCARB, as they seemed eager to help and facilitate change.
I left the workshop recognizing the road to licensure is different for everyone—despite the challenges, there was unanimous agreement that licensure was worth the pursuit. I was grateful to be an active participant of NCARB’s 2018 Re-Think Tank, but even more grateful to work in a supportive, respected field geared toward continuous improvement and helping others redefine their odds. As civic stewards, it is also our responsibility as architects to contribute to the future of architecture as a profession and its lasting legacy.
Michelle Mantegna, AIA, NCARB, EDAC, is an associate at Shepley Bulfinch. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB).