When I volunteered to write a blog for the blog page months ago, I figured it would get done and I’d move on. Well that was six months ago and I am just getting to it since it is due this week, and, like everything else about life, or in my life, it seems like every day is filled with addressing immediate needs and issues that occur and other things get put off. These activities include, first of all, my relationship with my wife. Then there is my role as a parent. Next my job as a college professor, which includes teaching classes, of all things, being the faculty advisor to the National Organization of Minority Architects Student Group, and taking students to Zambia for a service learning course. Then there is my involvement as a planning commissioner, as a board member of the Area Wide Aging Agency, as a new board member with the 21st Century Norman Seniors Association, a board member for the United Way Independence Council, and finally as a practicing architect. This does not include my daily Facebook posts on whatever topics that come up, which right now are either politically-related at the national level or locally-related as the Norman senior group pushes for funding for a new freestanding senior center. Oh, and last but not least, I am an EDRA board member, just recently elected to serve another term!
What, you ask, does this have to do with EDRA?! Well let me tell you. I got involved in EDRA 12 years ago at the conference in Sacramento where I presented a collaborative paper with an art therapist colleague here at OU on the concept of doors and entry and personal image. We submitted to EDRA because of its focus on collaboration in the area of research of all things related to the natural and built environment and its connection to those who use it and identify with it. At that conference I met architects, planners, landscape architects, environmental psychologists, social scientists, communications specialists, art therapists, and on and on. To make a long story short, I was blown away with the diversity of professionals actively engaged in collaboration focused around improving the urban as well as rural living environments.
As an architect I was trained to look at my designs in the urban context. How does my design contribute to creating people spaces and places? Will my building support healthy work or living environments and spaces? Will my design bolster the neighborhood it is built in to encourage community engagement and movement and interaction? I found that by participating in the conferences and knowledge networks and reading the online publications and interacting with other EDRA members, I was able to reflect better on the context of my professional work relating to the environment around it, making for a more sustainable and relevant project.
As you can see by what I am actively engaged in, my work focuses on aging and aging in place. As an aging architect, I have come face to face with the realities that millions face every day. I want to live in the house and neighborhood I raised my family in, as do 95% of the people in the United States. It is very difficult for seniors to participate in the social and political activities of the community around them. This is an area of study researched by many at EDRA, providing an active forum for dialogue and action.
So what does this mean to me? It means that by being part of EDRA, I am not isolated in my area of research and practice. As a board member, I am actively involved in making EDRA grow with the times and remain a leading force in all areas of environmental design research. I ran for the board both times to become involved in keeping EDRA financially strong and growing to meet the needs of current veteran researchers, as well as the next generation of millennial and generation X researchers and the topics that will be relevant in the next 10, 20, 30 years in creating the next generation of livable communities and people places.
I will use this space to get the word out on the discussions we board members have been having relating to getting more board member participation in the planning and design and growth of the next generation of EDRA. Whether it’s figuring out how to make the knowledge networks more active and interactive or how to make the conferences meet the needs of all groups participating in our association. I also want to see how to support student members as they finish their Master’s degrees or their PhDs, whether it is completing their educational goals; writing, publishing or presenting their research; or whatever other support they need to be successful in creating the kind of design solutions that will create the future livable communities.
You should have gotten the latest poll on EDRA. Please fill it out and submit it. Let us know what you’re thinking and how we can make EDRA more relevant. Tell us what you’d like to see as part of the new EDRA or what you like of the old EDRA that you want to make sure we keep.
I need some people to assist me in understanding and developing a plan to bring in conference and association sponsors to help develop a more vibrant financial future for EDRA. I look forward to hearing from you.