The Fellowship Journey—by the Numbers

The AIA College of Fellows recognizes excellence in architecture and contributions to our society. Only two percent of AIA’s 95,000 members hold this distinction. But you may be asking yourself these questions… do I qualify for this journey? What is the process? Why should I pursue this journey? What can I do now to improve my Fellowship chances?

AIA Colorado tackled all those questions and more during the recent webinar, “Demystifying Fellowship,” with Phil Gerou, FAIA.

While this process may be lengthy, it is, indeed, achievable with the help of a great mentor and sponsor. The AIA Fellowship journey is worth every amount of effort for you and others, and as AIA Colorado CEO Mike Waldinger said, “AIA Colorado is your friend in this challenging, yet rewarding fellowship process. We want you to have the best chance possible to join the AIA College of Fellows.” Following are Fellowship facts and figures to help you in this journey.

10 years.

To qualify for a fellowship, an AIA member needs to be in good standing for at least 10 cumulative years prior to the nomination deadline. A nomination cannot be submitted by an individual AIA member without meeting one of these two requirements: 1) Support and signature from the AIA Colorado president or secretary, or 2) The signatures of any 10 architects or five Fellows in good standing. The is a non-refundable entry fee of $450 payable to AIA.

One year.  

Expect to dedicate around a year to this process, which does not include any beforehand mentorship, planning, and strategizing. AIA Colorado begins its exploratory search and committee process at the beginning of each year. Submissions are due to AIA typically by October 1. Results are announced at the beginning of the following year.

One sponsor and letter.

It is critical to choose a good sponsor to help advocate on the behalf of your architectural career and influence to our industry and society. Your sponsor needs to be an AIA or FAIA member in good standing. Things to consider include: Will your sponsor clearly and concisely discuss your impact on architecture? Have others adopted your best practices? Do you have any national or regional published works, awards, lectures or AIA volunteering? Note: you can and it is recommended to assist your sponsor in writing the letter.

One of five objects (categories).

Working with your sponsor/mentor, you want to decide which object category is best for you. Here are your options: 1) Design, 2) Education, Literature, Research or Practice, 3) Led the Institute or Led a Related Organization 4) Public Service, Government, Industry Organizations, and 5) Alternative Career, Volunteer Work not Directly Connected with the Build Environment and Service to Society. Key to these categories are exceptional photographs and broad, ripple-effect works that span outside your region and have made a greater, lasting impact on architecture and our society.

Seven reference letters.

While there are no litmus tests during this process, these seven confidential reference letters are essential. Five of the references need to be AIA members. These letters are mailed directly from the reference to AIA. Note: only the sponsor can contact references for these letters.

Seven Jurors.

AIA selects seven jurors nationwide. The juror representing our region conducts a detailed reading of each submission in our region and provides a recommendation to the other jurors. Only six out of the seven jurors vote whether to elevate or not, wait a year, or determine that the applicant is not qualified. This discussion between all jurors is about 10 minutes per submission.

Three Consecutive Years.

An applicant can pursue this fellowship in three consecutive years but would need to wait a year if not elevated and resubmit the fifth year with additional reference letters. Again, AIA Colorado is here to help you with your fellowship application.

“The AIA College of Fellows recognizes exemplary architecture and contributions to our society,” said Gerou. “This is not an end-of-career award but recognizes the architectural ripple effects of our AIA Colorado members.” If you have questions about Fellowship, you can reach Gerou by email at

About the Author

JP Arnold

JP Arnold, LEED Green Associate, APR, is Marketing and Business Development Manager at Bridgers & Paxton. He is an AIA Colorado Allied Member and is a member of the Editorial Committee.

Arnold is a retired U.S. Army Public Affairs Officer (PAO) and Signal Officer. As a PAO, he worked with more than 150 media engagements around the world to include The New York Times, CNN, BBC, Newsweek, NBC News, along with Seattle and Colorado Springs media markets. He worked on the National Army Marketing and Advertising Recruiting Campaign alongside Weber Shandwick PR and McCann Erickson Ad Agency.

He is Accredited in Public Relations (APR) and holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Mass Communication from Ouachita Baptist University and Middle Tennessee State University (Phi Kappa Phi Honors). He has been married for more than 20 years to his wife and they have two children and several pets.

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