By Avik Guha, AIA, NCARB and architect at Roth Sheppard Architects

Each year, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) selects 12 emerging professionals to serve on the Think Tank. Members of the Think Tank help to identify the biggest challenges for candidates on the path to licensure, brainstorm new resources for students and AXP supervisors, and provide feedback on NCARB’s ongoing initiatives.

For those unfamiliar with the Think Tank and the newly launched Re-Think Tank, these NCARB Committees operate as focus groups with specific charges or topics addressed through in-person discussions and activities in addition to presentations and assignments. These efforts yield recommendations to NCARB regarding each charge, especially with respect to the licensure process.

Discussing complex issues with additional background information and an increased understanding of NCARB’s realm of authority allows the Think Tank to provide appropriate responses to how NCARB can work to improve its processes to hopefully reduce the confusion and frustration that the licensure process often causes.

2017-2018 NCARB Think Tank. Photo courtesy of NCARB.

2017-2018 NCARB Think Tank. Photo courtesy of NCARB.

The application process yields a diverse committee with representation from various regions, career paths, and work environments, as well as from different phases of the licensure process. This diversity allows each Committee member to bring personal experiences and world-view to the table, but more importantly learn about the differences in the process that others are facing due to their jurisdiction requirements, personal background, or other factors. Learning about the commonalities and complexities of individual situations leads to fruitful and eye-opening discussions that reveal the complicated reality of NCARB’s role as a national body that interfaces with 54 unique jurisdictions.

The 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands each have an architecture board responsible for issuing licenses, regulating architectural practice within its borders, and protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public. These 54 jurisdictions make up NCARB’s membership and work with NCARB to develop programs and standards, which serve as a framework that guides each jurisdiction’s individual requirements. Each jurisdiction is responsible for regulating the practice of architecture within its borders; NCARB recommends and encourages national requirements for licensure by developing standards for the 54 licensing boards, which then issue licenses to applicants who meet their specific registration requirements.

In 2014 I was fortunate enough to be one of the 12 applicants selected for the Think Tank; currently I have the honor of serving as Chair for this year’s Think Tank. This involvement over time has provided me insight ‘behind the machine’ and how NCARB uses this Committee to help improve the process for licensure candidates and address larger issues within the architectural profession.

Despite the short time between these years on the Think Tank, much has changed at NCARB: increased clarity and streamlining of requirements, a more interactive website with an online community and improved digital resources, the launch of the My AXP App, spearheading the Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) initiative, the transition from IDP to AXP, the growth of international reciprocity, and, of course, the ARE 4.0 to ARE 5.0 transition plan and launch of ARE 5.0 (without those awful vignettes!). Some of these initiatives have been directly affected by input from different years of the Think Tank.

2014 NCARB Think Tank. Photo Courtesy of NCARB.

2014 NCARB Think Tank. Photo Courtesy of NCARB.

In 2014, Think Tank Charges were tighter in scope in regard to NCARB processes, while this year’s Think Tank focuses on broader topics, with how NCARB can positively impact the profession as a whole. The evolution of this Committee and expansion to a new Re-Think Tank for recently licensed architects provide a great opportunity for participants and NCARB to impact hot topics and debates within the profession.

The 2014 Think Tank focused on seven charges; among them were creating a presentation that could be used to graphically represent the path to licensure, brainstorming resources/tools for those in the licensure process, and taking a unified stance on the ‘Intern’ titling debate (since then, NCARB has taken a stance and the word ‘Intern’ has also been removed from the Think Tank name). This year’s Think Tank has six charges, many with broader ramifications regarding the profession; these include developing resources and methods NCARB can use to engage with students at different stages of their education, creating an ideal architecture education curriculum, and how NCARB can support the profession to create an equitable working environment.

One hot topic that has not disappeared in this time? The importance of supervisors supporting candidates on the path to licensure and how to keep them informed and engaged. But that’s a discussion for another time…

If all this sounds like something you have interest in, please click to learn about the Think Tank or the newly-launched Re-Think Tank. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on this year’s Think Tank; until then, please check out this article on this year’s Think Tank and videos on why the Think Tank members want to be architects and why licensure matters to them.