EPN: Reflecting Back & Looking Ahead

Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, is depicted with two faces: one looking back to the past and one looking ahead to the future.
Participants take part in the EPN Charrette, located at Middlebury College
Participants take part in the EPN Charrette, located at Norwich University

By Lealoni Coathup, Assoc. AIA

Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, is depicted with two faces: one looking back to the past and one looking ahead to the future. January, named after this god, is a perfectly fitting time to reflect on the Emerging Professionals’ Network’s (EPN) accomplishments and activities in 2019 and to look ahead to our opportunities to grow in 2020.

2019 was my first year serving on the AIAVT Board of Directors while stepping into the large shoes left by the EPN’s previous Director, Catherine Lange, AIA. To be sure I was taking the role in a productive direction, I began by identifying the goals of the EPN and distilling them down into focus categories:


  • Be a resource to emerging professionals and provide them with educational materials and opportunities.  
  • Facilitate learning opportunities and study groups for designers pursuing architecture licensure.


  • Facilitate guidance-based relationships between emerging design professionals and established professionals to share career development advice and experience.
  • Make connections with Vermont’s architecture programs to build relationships between students and potential mentors.


  • Spread awareness of the profession to community members.
  • Encourage a younger demographic of our membership base in response to national and regional data trends showing our aging population.
  • Broaden reach, participation, and involvement of EPN events and activities to include areas of Vermont beyond Chittenden County.


  • Provide opportunities to establish and strengthen relationships between professionals in differing career phases (students, emerging professionals, recently licensed architects, and architects)
  • Provide opportunities for exposure and connections with professionals in other design and AEC industries (Interior Design, Landscape Design, Engineering, Construction, Artists, etc.)

Through the lens of these goals, I was then able to re-envision our annual events. The main event of the year has been our annual Design Competition: Live & Unplugged. The charrette competition previously gave teams consisting of two emerging professionals four hours to design a solution in response to a prompt issued at the outset of the event. To better achieve the EPN goals, we decided on the following modifications:

  • Expand eligible participants beyond just emerging professionals to encourage networking overlap between early phase and later phase professionals. Competitor teams registered in one of three categories: Professional, Emerging Professional, or Student.
  • Host the event in multiple concurrent locations to encourage participation around the state.
  • Locate each event at schools with existing architecture programs (Middlebury College and Norwich University) to facilitate student participation.

While we were excited about this new direction, it became apparent that significant fundraising measures would need to be taken to ensure these modifications would be successfully implemented. In April 2019, the AIA College of Fellows (COF) announced they were accepting nominations and applications for their Emerging Professionals Component Grant. The grant was established with the intent of supporting specific programs addressing the “advancement of the profession, career advancement, the value of design, leadership, starting one’s own firm, economy, and change, or the value of licensure”. 

In July, after submitting an in-depth proposal, we were informed that AIAVT’s EPN was included in the final 12 submissions selected to receive the grant. Winning submissions were ranked on a scoring system and highest-scoring submissions were awarded with full funding of the amount specified in the proposal, while lower-ranking winning submissions received partial funding. I am proud to say that not only were we selected as a winning submission, but we were awarded the full amount we requested! 

With this gracious support from the COF as well as a sponsored partnership with Pella Windows and Doors, we were able to realize our new vision for this year’s EPN Design Charrette in November 2019. The event was spectacularly successful, with participation tripling from the previous year’s event while establishing new relationships between the AIAS chapters throughout the state and AIAVT.

The 4th Annual EPN Design Competition served as an example of the evolution and alignment of the EPN’s mission over the past year. We’re starting 2020 off with great momentum and several events planned to continue bringing these goals to fruition. 

What you can plan to see from AIAVT EPN in 2020:

Firm Tour (Mentorship)

We’ll be organizing a tour for students and professionals entering the Vermont architectural scene to expose them to the different firm structures and companies in our area. This will give them an idea of their many options when kick-starting their professional careers. 

For any firms interested in collaborating with me in this effort, please reach out to me at the email address below!

Social Events (Networking)

Our seasonal social meetups will continue. Look for our EPN Winter Meetup announcement in the coming weeks!

ARE Prep Session (Knowledge)

Several EPN members are in the process of completing their Architectural Registration Exams. We’ll be organizing an event to bring in local experts for exam related presentations, Q&A’s, and discussions.

Collaboration with AIAS (Outreach)

Continued development and support of our fellow AIAS organizations.

AIANE Conference (Networking, Knowledge, Outreach)

Collaboration with other AIAVT committees to host our neighboring New England AIA chapters for the Annual AIA New England Annual Meeting & Design Awards event in the fall of 2020.

I’m looking forward to my second year serving our tightly-knit architectural community through AIAVT. 

For those with any kind of ideas, questions, concerns, or interest I welcome you to reach out to me at aiavt.ep@gmail.com

Cheers to 2020!