Q&A with the Intern Think Tank Chairs

Next month, 12 interns from across the country will gather in Washington, DC, for our third annual Intern Think Tank (ITT). Over the course of two days, members will explore the pros and cons of the licensure process, brainstorm alternative titles for interns and beyond, recommend improvements to the supervisor program, and more. In anticipation of their arrival, we caught up with former ITT Chairs Susanne Tarovella, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C, and Corey Clayborne, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, along with 2014 Chair Stephanie Silkwood, AIA, LEED AP.

Why did you want to become involved with the Intern Think Tank?

Corey: It was an honor to be invited to chair the inaugural ITT. I thought it would be exciting to engage with passionate emerging professionals who were looking for a way to positively impact the profession.

Susanne: I wanted to become involved because I vividly remember what it was like to start my IDP experience using paper forms and "learning units," then ending the program online with automated experience tracking and expanded supplementary opportunities. I wondered what current interns would suggest to make the licensure process even better.

Stephanie: In recent years, many critical changes have been made to improve the architectural licensure process. Much of this has been done because creative thinkers are envisioning new ways of doing things. Leading the Intern Think Tank is an opportunity to help interns contribute to that dialog.

Why is it important to bring emerging professionals into the discussion?

Susanne: Emerging professionals have the most direct experience with the process. They experience first-hand and day-to-day how well their education, experience, and examination are preparing them for the profession. They have tremendous insight into which opportunities allow them to learn, grow, and gain confidence versus requirements that often seem useless or arbitrary.

Stephanie: Those who are actively engaged in the licensure process are best suited to identify the biggest hurdles. Also, I think many of our emerging professionals are of a generation that is very responsive to change, and they’re not afraid to question why things are done a certain way.

Corey: Emerging professionals are the target audience of the IDP and ARE. It simply makes sense to engage them as they will define the profession in the years to come.

At some point, ITT members always end up discussing alternative titles for architect candidates. What’s your take on the title debate?

Stephanie: My first thought about the word “intern” is if you don’t like it, get licensed! But the truth is, it is a confusing term for various reasons. I think if we want the public and our clients to have a better understanding of who architects are and what they do, we can start by establishing a better term for aspiring architects.

Susanne: This is a really complex question. Honestly, I'm sympathetic to the concerns, but also irritated by the discussion. Interns are so much more than a single title suggests. They're designers, managers, leaders, artists, collaborators, builders, and many other things—but they're not architects until the “three Es” are complete. That's not semantics; it's the law. I never really minded being called an intern. It motivated me to get through the licensure process more quickly.

Corey: Just get licensed.

As someone who works regularly with emerging professionals, what advice can you share about navigating the path to licensure?

Stephanie: Read the directions! While it seem like a complicated process, NCARB has done a great job of providing resources that can help you find your way. It is the responsibility of each candidate to chart his/her own path.

Corey: If you are paralyzed by fear, then my advice is take the first test. The exams are not intended to be easy. On the same note, the exams are not intended to be impossible to pass.

Susanne: My ultimate advice is always for people to start testing as soon as they can, don't over-prepare, learn from your mistakes and failures, and keep moving. Once you have momentum, keep it up and you will find success. Most interns are very smart, savvy people. Their biggest obstacle is a lack of confidence. They fear the process and end up over-thinking it. Stop dreading it and start working for it!

Stephanie, what are you looking forward to about chairing the 2014 Intern Think Tank?

Stephanie: I am mostly excited about meeting a group of talented, thoughtful individuals who share my passion for this profession. Lock a bunch of passionate people in a room, and you’re going to get a lot of great ideas (and have a lot of fun)!