Update from Interim Executive Director


Dear AIA Chicago Members and Friends,

As we move toward the end of winter, I hope all of you are weathering the storms— both pandemic and snow-related. I am feeling hopeful signs as the days get longer and the vaccine process finally accelerates. Perhaps this summer we will feel some relief.

As I check in with colleagues around the country, I get mixed reports regarding business recovery; though, for the most part, I am seeing positive signs driven by pent-up demand and a mending economy.

Here at AIA Chicago, we have a good deal of exciting activity which I would like to summarize:

Board Elections

As we closed out 2020, we had a very successful Board of Directors (BoD) election process with a high level of participation, largely thanks to our on-line voting process that allowed participation beyond the usual live vote at our Annual Meeting. And so we welcome the new Board of Directors, which includes an energetic and dedicated group of both new and continuing voices, representing our membership in a variety of ways:

2021 Stats (23 board members)

  • Small Firm – 35%
  • Medium Firm – 20%
  • Large Firm – 45%
  • Men – 52.2%
  • Women – 47.8%
  • Minority – 34.8%


Strategic Plan

AIA Chicago members received an invitation last week to participate in a chapter survey to give input on our strategic planning process, called AIA Chicago Forward. I encourage everyone to  set aside ten minutes to fill out the survey and provide feedback. The results will be critical to the formation of the plan.

The groundwork for this process began in 2020 with extensive benchmarking and interviews with a broad spectrum of views, interests and concerns. As we move into spring, we will keep you updated on progress and we look forward to launching our framework in June. From what I have seen and heard so far, I am inspired by the intensity of focus and care that our president, Jessica Figenholtz, AIA, and her team have displayed. The outcome will have lasting benefits and will increase the level of value available to all of our members at a critical time. So please respond to the survey. We all know that the larger the response, the better the result for all of us!

Executive Director Search

With the thoughtful leadership of Matthew Dumich, FAIA, his excellent Search Committee, and working with Helene Dreiling, FAIA, of Three Aspens, we are close to completing our search process. We received more than 150 applications and the committee had a challenging task to arrive at a shortlist of eminently qualified candidates. Interviews have been completed and we look forward to sharing exciting news with you very soon.

Chapter Finances

Simply put, AIA Chicago Chapter finances are in very good shape, thanks to the foresight of previous boards and the availability of a PPP loan. Our membership renewals have been excellent to this point. As I have benchmarked with colleagues in other large chapters, I have found that budgets for 2021 are assuming a slight downturn in dues revenue. We have built that assumption into our budget, and we are taking a fresh look at creative ways to increase our non-dues revenues to make up the difference.

As challenging as this past year has been, I believe we all have either assumed or accelerated new modes of operation which will serve us well going forward. AIA Chicago, through our programs and other services, will be able to serve our 4,000 members in ways never before imagined…..so we will keep looking for the silver lining.

Stay healthy, wear your masks, maintain social distancing and keep your eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel!


John M. Syvertsen, FAIA

Interim Executive Director

AIA Chicago