A look inside AIA's collaborations with HBCUs
According to the 2020 study, “Where Are My People? Black in Architecture” one in every three Black architecture students attend a historically black college or university (HBCU).
In the study from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), Kendall A. Nicholson, Ed.D, Assoc. AIA explains that “this is substantial because, on average, each of the remaining degree programs only graduates two Black architecture students each year.”
Nearly 14 percent of the U.S. population is Black, while only two percent of architects are Black. HBCUs play a critical role in developing the talent we need so that the profession can better reflect the communities in which we serve.
The need for securing a more diverse future for the profession was a driving motivator for the series of visits in 2022 when then AIA President Dan Hart, FAIA and NOMA President Jason Pugh, AIA, traveled to the seven HBCUs with National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB)-accredited architecture programs: Morgan State University, Howard University, University of the District of Columbia, Hampton University, Prairie View A&M University, Tuskegee University, and Florida A&M University.
After the series of visits concluded, feedback was compiled from students, faculty, and staff so that AIA could consider intentional engagement and partnership opportunities with the seven HBCUs. Much of the current work centers on increasing student awareness of AIA and highlighting current and future tools and resources while students work toward their degrees.
AIA aims to create and encourage a culture of intentional inclusion and belonging so the profession can retain Black talent and reinforce the expectation of professional engagement and leadership at each career stage.
AIA shared this message at the 2023 annual HBCU Student Forum, a co-sponsored event alongside architecture firm, SmithGroup and the Florida-based non-profit Council on Culture and Art.
The event features students and faculty from all seven HBCU’s and gives them an opportunity to connect with peers from other architecture programs. The location of the Forum rotates annually and was held this year at Florida A&M University. They offered the Forum in a hybrid format to allow access to students, staff, faculty, and presenters from across the country. More than 100 students attended in person, with nearly 300 more participating virtually.
“It’s an opportunity for us to exchange ideas, update one another, and illustrate that we are one family working towards one common mission. So while we’re at different institutions, while we’re all different sizes and in different parts of the country, we all have a common and shared purpose,” said Andrew Chin, Interim Dean, School of Architecture and Engineering Technology at Florida A+M University.
The theme for this year, Preserving the Culture, was selected for a variety of reasons.
“When people see the phrase preserving culture, they think of historic preservation and keeping things that recognize the value and document African American place intact. But I also thought it would be interesting to have workshops with students that look at the wide palette of ways that people can preserve culture,” Chin said.
Workshop topics included using digital tools to document historic places, documenting and preserving culture by writing about unique locations, and an analysis of contemporary African American culture as a starting point for designing thinking, where the speaker used lyrics from rappers as a base.
“It’s important for HBCU’s to demonstrate that even if we are separate schools, we share a common mission. You don’t see six or seven architecture schools working together on projects like this,” said Chin. “These programs don’t need to be in a competition with each other; we can work together to make each other better.”
HBCU Steam Days of Action
While AIA recognizes the critical work focused on higher education conducted by Alliance partners like ACSA and AIAS; AIA is an established entity in the world of Advocacy.
By leveraging networks, Hampton University Department Chair, Robert Easter, FAIA, and 2023 Whitney Young Jr. Award Winner featured the profession of architecture to be a presence at the 2023 HBCU STEAM Days of Action hosted by Congresswoman Alma Adams, Founder and Co-Chair of the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus. This is the sixth year of the event, but the first time it included the profession of architecture in the STEAM discussion.
Professor Easter made a lasting and meaningful impression, increasing awareness of the equity challenges within the profession and highlighting the importance of the seven NAAB-accredited programs at HBCUs during the Day 1 Keynote panel.
“I was advocating for, explaining really, the importance of industry engagement and architectural engagement. The HBCU programs produce a significant percentage of registered African American architects practicing in the United States. We’re responsible for introducing architecture to a wide range of backgrounds,” said Easter. Noting their nurturing culture, Easter believes that HBCUs appreciate and recognize students full range of skills, talents and life experiences. This prepares students to actively contribute to a thriving profession that can create inclusive designs advanced by greater representation.
He continued, “The industry is currently missing out on a lot of talent. Many HBCU students work full-time to be in school. They don’t have the time to put into portfolios or design studios, but they have a strong work ethic and a level of intellect where they grasp the materials and understand the process quickly. They are going to get into offices and outwork everyone. That’s the value of an HBCU education.”
Building Renewal Internship
AIA is excited to partner with Turner Construction to host the third cohort of AIA Headquarter Renewal Interns. This is an opportunity for architecture and construction to model efforts to connect across the built environment and champion a more equitable profession. AIA will again accept seven interns, nominated by academic leaders from each of the seven NAAB-accredited programs at HBCUs.
Whereas the first year focused on programming, concept, and schematic design and the second year focused on design development and documentation, his year's theme will be “drawing to field” and include experiences and exposure to project management at the start of the construction process.
“It’s about building the big picture of access, exposure, and opportunity for Black and minority students,” said Daymanuel Sampson, Community and Citizenship Leader for the Turner Mid-Atlantic Region. “A lot of students run into roadblocks that prevent them from having access to projects like this. This collaboration with AIA is putting work Turner is already doing into overdrive; the collaboration makes sense and is just a match made in heaven in my mind.”