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Musings of a Fellow AICP Reject update


I have been requested to print this story so it can be read without having to send me an e-mail request, so here goes.


What a thrill and honor to receive an e-mail from the Florida Chapter APA asking whether it would be O.K. for it to nominate me as a Fellow in the AICP. Of course it would be O.K., I e-mailed back. I would be deeply honored. Who wouldn’t be?

I hadn’t given much thought to such a possibility before receiving that e-mail, but now the more I researched into the possibility of becoming an FAICP, the more it humbled me. Little did I know of what was in store for me.

I immediately went to the Internet, brought up the APA home page and downloaded the FAICP Nominee application form. Boy! Was I ever surprised! It was 11 pages long, not 10 or 12 but 11. It required all of the history of my career as a professional planner; the usual background information such as education, job descriptions and locations, honors, authored articles, books, etc., etc., etc. It also required six to ten references from people who are familiar with my planning activities and planning accomplishments.

Naturally I don’t carry this type of information around in my hip pocket; some of it dates back over a half a century. So, I scrambled up into the attic. I searched back through box after box of information that would help me fill out the nomination packet. After 48 hours (over a two week period) of painful work, I succeeded in completing the nomination packet in rough form. All I needed now was the letters of reference. As soon as I received them all, I packaged them in with the rest of the final nomination packet information and sent the whole kit and caboodle off to the Chair of the FAICP Selection Committee. That was last August.

By December I was getting anxious to hear whether my nomination had been approved. Everyone who knew about my nomination was very encouraging and told me that with my 55 years of planning (53 of them in Florida) and an APA advocate and supporter since its inception, I should be a “shoo-in.” I was so optimistic; perhaps I read too much into such generous support. I even got out my old tux for the trip to the Chicago 2002 APA National Planning Conference and the AICP installation of the new Fellows. I was jolted out of this fantasy and returned to reality when I remembered the old proverb, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”

At last, although slow in coming, it was the middle of January and low and behold I finally received that important letter from AICP. It was from the Chair of the FAICP Selection Committee. It began with the usual friendly introduction, “…on behalf of the American Institute of Certified Planners, etc., etc., etc. …your career has produced work which impressed us and we wish you continued success…etc., etc., but… Then came the punch line. “We regret, however…etc, etc., etc.” Need I say more? It was a great disappointment, but alas, I am now a full-fledged FAICP Nominee Reject. Naturally I felt saddened; doesn’t everyone who has applied for and been rejected as a Fellow feel that way?

The Chair of the FAICP Selection Committee tried, as mercifully as he could, to explain why I didn’t measure up to the Selection Committee’s expectations.

Suffice it to say that even though I was nominated and highly recommended by my peers and the Florida APA Chapter which knows me and my work intimately, I was rejected by a committee whose members, for the most part, I have never met (some I never heard of). I’ve got to tell you; that really hurts.

As it all turned out, the predictions of my being a “shoo-in” turned out to be a “shoo-out.”

The Chair of the FAICP Selection Committee was kind enough to explain that there is no prohibition against my reapplying. Even went as far as to tell me that some Rejects had done so and had subsequently been accepted. “Thanks for the advice, Mr. Chair, I may take you up on that but for the time being I’ll have to think about it and get re-energized. I’m still recovering from the last attempt.”

On a more serious vein, if the FAICP designation is to gain the respect and honor that its creators intended, and, that it deserves, the method of designating the Fellows has got to be revisited. The present process only engenders animosity and discontent and can only degrade the Fellow significance as time passes.

I now come to the reason for writing this article. Please be assured that it is not a case of “sour grapes” or retaliation against those who have rejected my nomination. No, having gone through the process and surviving, though slightly bent but unbroken, it is in a constructive vein that I offer the following suggestions in the hope that they will improve the procedure for designating the future Fellows:

1. Let the Chapter Selection Committee be the one to designate the Fellows. This has several advantages. 1) The Chapter Selection Committee is in a better position to know about the work and accomplishments of a potential Fellow in its Chapter than the National AICP Selection Committee which can hardly be expected to intimately know of the achievements of each of its 16,000 plus members; 2) it enables the Chapter Selection Committee to personally interview (if it deems desirable) each potential nominee without necessitating long-distant travel and expense.

2. FAICP members should not have a vote on the admission of a Fellow nominee; they can be a member of the Selection Committee and help make the rules for admission but should not serve as judges. A FAICP dominated Selection Committees could become self-serving and foster and perpetuate a “good ole boy” syndrome that has the potential of compromising an unbiased selection of Fellows bases solely on merit and distinguished service.

Admission should be based strictly on established qualifications. Either an applicant meets them or he/she doesn’t. There should be little or no room for subjectivity, quotas, exclusivity or fluff.

3. Leave the length of active membership in the AICP at the present 15 years, or if anything, extend it to 20 or 25 years.

4. Review the nomination packet and try to simplify it, if possible, without diluting or losing any of its substance. The same application form should be used throughout all of the Chapters (presumably as presently done) in order to assure that all candidates are meeting the same standards for admittance.

In closing, may I say, “God speed to all AICP members wishing to attain the knighthood of Fellow. May you all achieve your ambition on the first go-around. If not, remember, getting accepted as a Fellow is no slam-dunk. Perhaps the Chair’s advice about trying again, if at first you don’t succeed, is good advice. The virtue of patience might very well be the key to your eventual success.”

Neno J. Spagna, DPA, AICP
AICP Membership Certificate Number 000298


Dear Leader
Staff member

I've been rejected for plenty of jobs where I was perfectly qualified. The most painful was a town outside of Buffalo where I lived for several years, a place I knew like the back of my hand, a place that was the topic of my thesis. I didn't even get as much as a rejection letter; the planning director there refused my calls, and the town wouldn't respond to my state Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) inquiry. WTF? I spent a lot of time wondering "why?" What happened? What was their rationale? While you read about the fristrating situations that we planners deal with on a daily basis, we don't talk about rejection much -- promotions where we were passed over, jobs that we weren't hired for. I think we fear that if others hear our rejection stories, they'll reject us as well. "Hey, it he wasn't good enough to be hired by [insert municipality name here], why should we be the ones who have to settle for him?" Your post was a brave action.

I think it's a great honor just to accomplish enough -- to reach a level in your career where you can be considered possible FAICP material. I still have about 30 to 40 good working years in me, and I know that I'll never come close to achieving what FAICP designees and nominees have.

el Guapo

WTF? Why did they shun you like a transvestite stripper at an Amish quilt show? Did you ever find out? Was it the third nipple?


Musings of an AICP Fellow Reject

Dear El Guapo: Thanks for your inquiry regarding why I was turned down as a Fellow by the AICP Selection Committee.
As best I can gather from the letter it sent me regarding my candidacy it was because I had done nothing of significant and lasting value during my fifty-five years as a planning professional.
I want to make it clear, nowhere in the article , Musings of an AICP Fellow Reject," did I belittle or take umbrage with the decision of the Selection Committee. It was its decision to make and it made it. I accept it as a "fe accompli."