OAA members who volunteer on Committees are vital to the Association’s work, with a diversity of voices, opinions, skills and knowledge critical to its decision-making process.
Right now, there are vacancies opening up for three-year terms in 11 OAA groups, ranging from the Regulatory, Interns and Communications Committees to the Sustainable Built Environments Committee (SBEC) and Policy Advocacy Coordination Team (PACT). If you’ve ever considered sharing your skills, perspective and experience to serve the profession and the public interest, now is the time! (To find out more about how to put your name forward by October 18, click here
To help demystify what OAA Committees do and what work is involved, we’ll be sharing the stories of OAA volunteers on the blOAAg over the month of September. Today, we’re talking with Kristiana Schuhmann of the Policy Advocacy Coordination Team (PACT).
1. Who are you?
I’m a registered OAA architect (since 2018) who lives in Toronto, but grew up just north of the city in Oak Ridges. I went to Carleton University for my undergrad and then did my Master’s at Dalhousie. I came back to Toronto to do my internship at a private architectural practice. My interests are in temporary art installations, designing for mental health/wellness, accessibility standards and building information modelling (BIM).
2. Why did you decide to join PACT?
Previously, I worked at the OAA in the architectural graduate student position where, for one of my tasks, I assisted the staff who worked with PACT. I was introduced to this whole new side of the profession that was extremely interesting to me and, I realized, very important for the long-term health of the profession. When I became an intern, I felt that the committee needed to diversify and make positions for younger members; it especially needed female representation, as they have a whole different perspective to contribute as well as a different level of investment into the future. It took me two times applying, and now I’m here.
3. What kind of things do you do as a member?
As a member of PACT, I attend monthly meetings, participate in email conversations for various action items, review documents and attend the occasional function. The main thing that I, and the other committee members, do is give out opinions as architects and people with vested interest in the profession. This can be on various government and policy initiatives, such as new bills that will affect the profession, or it can involve responding to letters from other allied professions (such as the engineers). It’s all within the lens of protecting the public interest.
4. What are the meetings like?
Meetings are typically held monthly around a large conference table at the OAA Headquarters. The attendance consists of members of Council, other architects and OAA staff. (If it sounds intimidating, I assure you that it’s not.) Typically, staff will prepare an agenda of items, which we make our way though in a very open and engaging discussion. Members are encouraged to use their expertise and experience to vote on the course of action for particular items. Sometimes, when I’m not that well-versed on a topic, I’m more reserved—I listen and learn from the experienced opinions of other members. Other times, I have a lot of working knowledge on a subject, so I’m more vocal. The main point is we make democratic decisions that align with the OAA’s mandates and vision.
5. Why should someone join the group?
PACT would be of interest to you if you’re interested in change from the top down and if you want to help shape the big-picture objectives that structure our profession. If you have good ideas and are always asking questions, I think you’ll be a good candidate for PACT—and any committee for that matter. Get out of the office and volunteer! You’ll make great connections and your eyes will be opened to a whole new side of architecture.