Chance meeting of CTA team members from Montana, Louisiana at NCARB event yields ‘An Unexpected Journey’

By: Charlie Deese
23 March 2017
CTA architects Charlie Deese (L) of Kalispell, MT, and Jenny Chandela (R) of New Orleans, LA, snapped a photo with Ryan Misner, NCARB Assistant Director, Examination Development & Research, during a meeting in Washington, D.C. the first week of March.

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) launched its latest version of registration exams (ARE 5.0) in November 2016. Long in the making, the ARE 5.0 has restructured the exams to better align with architectural practice. What most do not know is professionals throughout the country, like myself, volunteer with NCARB to help shape these exams and subsequently our professional practice.

Several months ago, I responded to a request from NCARB for licensed architects to volunteer for what they called the “Cut Score Taskforce.” Being newly licensed, it seemed a great way to contribute to the profession, so I threw my name in the hat. From there, I was accepted into a pool of about 130 licensed architects, from varying locations and backgrounds. Our task: recommend passing scores for each of six divisions of the new ARE 5.0.

The first week of March, I left my home in Kalispell, MT, and arrived in our nation’s capital for a workshop looking at two divisions of the test, Practice Management and Project Development & Documentation. After a round of introductions with the 14 other members of my group, and some digging through employee profiles on CTA’s intranet, I came to the realization I was not the only representative here from our firm! Enter Jenny Chandela, a recent addition to CTA New Orleans. If you doubted NCARB’s intent of randomizing the group, Jenny and I are proof. Of similar ages, we both have kids around two years old — but from there, our arrival at this point in the profession could not be more different, and that variety is great. Additionally, the group also happened to have two neighbors from Missouri and a couple of college classmates. You cannot make this kind of thing up!

Our efforts in navigating this important task were led by a psychometrician. Don’t know what that is? That’s OK — neither did I. A psychometrician is a clinical psychologist specifically skilled in developing and evaluating standardized tests. While there is certainly some data-crunching and other technical evaluations, much of our work and conversation centered on defining the minimally-qualified candidate. We named him Ralph. In other words, we worked to define how Ralph met the standard of care for practicing in our profession. While I cannot divulge specifics, I can say we were asked to take the exam divisions ourselves, then evaluate our results compared to the pool of candidates currently taking the exams — against others in the group, against our definition of the minimally-qualified candidate, and against our own experiences in the profession.

In the end, three days of being locked in a conference room with 14 relative strangers was all about arriving at a score we collectively considered to constitute passing. We cannot share our recommendation as final approval still requires review by the exam committee and NCARB’s board. However, I can say this process gave me confidence in the system with which we evaluate our colleagues. The benefit of these opportunities, which can never be anticipated, are the chance meetings and connections to be had with fellow volunteers.

The Kalispell-New Orleans connection was strengthened based upon a shared interest in giving back to the profession. We have CTA to thank for its support of team member volunteer efforts. Although we work at the same firm, we have had very different experiences in our independent professional journeys, just like so many members of the CTA team. I am happy to have further closed the gap between CTA offices despite our geographic disparity. And finally, WELCOME ABOARD, JENNY!

Jenny, an architect with CTA, has participated in various volunteer efforts for NCARB over the last several years. Her appointments have ranged from evaluating supplemental experience for interns to recommending framework for the Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) to serving as a panelist at an AIA National education session. She has represented the professional both in her capacity as a practitioner as well as an educator.


In addition to being a big proponent of team member volunteerism, CTA supports aspiring architects on their path to licensure by paying for annual dues for one national professional organization per team member, reimbursing fees to establish and maintain an NCARB Record during license attainment, and providing team member study materials in preparation for the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) exams.
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