Each year, AIA members attending the AIA Conference on Architecture have the opportunity to vote for candidates to help lead the Institute's national office. Ahead of the June 21-23 event in New York this year, ARCHITECT spoke with the sole candidate running for 2019–2020 secretary. Jason Winters, AIA, is a founding principal of Annapolis, Maryland–based Kezlo Group and a member of AIA Maryland.

Below, he answers our questions about engaging membership, educating the public about the role of architects, and confronting the greatest challenges facing the profession today.

Why do you want to be part of the team leading the AIA, and how will you engage the membership?
Winters: After 15 years of active involvement in the AIA community, I have been fortunate to meet members who have mentored and inspired me to advocate for the architectural profession. Being a part of the team leading the AIA is just one small way that I can contribute to advancing its mission.

As an AIA National Board member, I believe we should engage directly with membership for input and feedback. The AIA can demonstrate its commitment to outreach and promote healthy organizational culture by visiting component leadership and individual members at their locations. In particular, secretary engagement is a commitment to constant communication and active listening. If successful, we can continue to shepherd membership needs, build relationships among our Institute bodies, and promote information sharing.

What is the role of architects and the AIA for the greater public?
There is no limitation to what, where, and how the talents and creativity of AIA members can be utilized to benefit the public.

Architecture training can be leveraged for the greater public good providing the highest value to society. Along with being stewards of the natural and build environment, we offer systems-based methodologies for problem solving, consensus building, and leadership in design thinking. With this ability, we only need to to focus on our engagement within our communities to maximize our roles with the public at large.

What is the greatest challenge facing the profession today? How can firms and individual practitioners respond to it?
Our greatest challenge today is preparing the AIA and its members for a different, future world order in which we will practice. At the most basic level, architects lead design processes by evaluating information and visualizing content in order to make informed decisions. Creative leadership is a hallmark of our practice and a critical skill set embodied in our education. With advanced technologies and emerging access to data/information, there is a tremendous need for innovative design leadership and creative thinking in professional industries.

Given this climate, firms and individual practitioners should consider creative leadership training with the purpose of preparing our membership for prominent roles in design thinking, the creative process, and information visualization across multiple industries. This will posit architects as subject matter experts recognized by allied professional entities, business industries, and the general public. This will also advance an architect's skill set related to data analysis, design synthesis, and solution visualization. As a result, architects will be able to elevate their reach beyond design and construction to broader general business industries that need guidance in strategy and innovation, design management, and problem solving.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.