In June, Iowa architect Terry L. Allers, FAIA, NCARB, Hon. FCARM, was installed as NCARB’s FY20 president. Over the next year, he will lead a focused effort to develop tools and resources for the supervisors who guide candidates through NCARB’s experience program. We caught up with President Allers to discuss his start in the profession, the importance of mentoring the next generation of architects, and NCARB’s evolution over the years.
How did you get your start in architecture?
Growing up, my brother and I were encouraged by our parents to do a lot of different creative things. We would build cities in the living room and create fun activities outdoors, such as recreating our version of Disneyland after a trip there when I was 11. Our mom would allow the living room to be a city until it was time to move on to something else. My dad, who was a grocer and also sold appliances, would bring home huge boxes and help us create playhouses.
When searching for possible colleges to attend, some older friends of mine who attended Iowa State University suggested that I go there. When I looked at the curriculum that was available at Iowa State, I wasn’t completely sure what an architect was. I was also fascinated with the idea of aerospace engineering, given the period of time when the first astronauts flew into space. Despite my other interest, I was so intrigued by the idea of being able to visualize my own designs one day that I ended up choosing to study architecture—and the rest is history.
Did you have a great mentor or supervisor who helped guide you along the licensure process?
I did—in terms of learning what architecture was really about after college. My first boss provided me with all of the information I needed at the time. He was a good critique of my work and supported me every step of the way—allowing me to experience all of the different aspects of the profession. I would not only design projects, but also be involved in the construction and bidding process. I received all of that experience while working in that firm, and I’m very grateful.
How was the exam back when you were on the path to licensure?
It was a new experiment by NCARB—a two-day, all multiple-choice exam that was eight hours each day and given once a year. If you didn’t pass it, you'd have to wait a year to take it again. My examination story is definitely one for the books.
The day before I took the exam, there was a huge snow storm that made the roads impassable. The exam was being given in Des Moines, which is two hours away on good roads. I called the state licensing board office and asked if there was any chance the exam would be postponed. They informed me that the exam would not be postponed and that I had better try to make it there. The next morning at 4 a.m., I threw a shovel in the trunk of my car and took off down the highway. About 10 miles in, I hit a huge snow drift. I got out of the car, shoveled through the drift, kept going, and basically experienced icy roads the whole drive there—but somehow managed to arrive an hour and a half before the exam. I think I was so relieved that I had made it safely that it took away some of the nerves of taking the exam. Despite the obstacles (or snow) I faced that day, I ended up passing.
Why is mentoring and supervising important to you?
Because we are mentoring the future of our profession. That basically sums it up. Keeping that in mind, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to mentor at least 25 architecture students and serve as an Architectural Experience Program® (AXP®) supervisor for 11 licensure candidates. Working with each and every one of them was an invaluable experience. There’s nothing better than guiding and sharing critical career moments with your mentees.
I was also mentored well when I was younger, so I think that’s where my passion for guidance and support stems from. Only through proper mentorship can the next generation of architects be energized to do their best for the profession and be capable to protect the public’s health, safety, and welfare.
How did you get involved with the Iowa Architectural Examining Board?
I was recommended by another architect, who was on the board at the time, to the governor. I didn’t get on the board that time, though. Then the Iowa chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) came knocking on my door and asked if I’d be interested. After my involvement with them, I was able to join the board, providing me with a lifelong experience. I served on the Iowa Board for three consecutive terms, and during that time, I got the chance to meet and work with many wonderful and engaged people. In fact, it was through my involvement and relationships I’d made while on the Iowa Board that I was encouraged to become a volunteer for NCARB.
How do state boards and NCARB work together?
Well, that is an excellent process. Each state board is a member of NCARB, so they have input on what NCARB is going to be doing in the future. NCARB obtains input from the various jurisdictions through annual meetings, comment periods, and different committees. The committees are composed of volunteers who are dedicated to NCARB, which provide an excellent way to ultimately inform the Board of Directors.
What are your goals for the coming year?
I’d like to maintain the momentum that we've already established as an organization. To do that, I'll need to develop measurable goals for each of our committees and establish charges for them to complete. At the top of my list is a robust effort to develop tools and resources for the supervisors who guide candidates through NCARB’s AXP. I believe this is fundamental to the ethics of practicing architecture and vital to positioning the next generation to be best prepared for the challenges of the future. I’d also like to explore ways that we as an organization can continue to invest in diversity in our NCARB committees.
How has NCARB changed over the years?
When I first became involved in NCARB, I participated in several committees. I think in those early years of my involvement, it seemed that we weren't as focused on the future. Since then, there has been a significant improvement in strategically moving forward with new programs and services to our Member Boards, emerging professionals, and the profession. We have also been intentional in following our Strategic Plan to achieve successful outcomes for the organization.
What’s next for NCARB?
I am looking forward to a bright future. We are confidently headed toward having a more diverse committee and leadership population and exploring different approaches to helping the next generation. As we step into our second century, NCARB will need to demonstrate a deeper awareness of how the expectations of public protection are manifested in our work.