Last June, AIA Pennsylvania’s leadership and Board of Directors, under the direction of 2020 AIA Pennsylvania President Marc Mondor, AIA made the commitment to be part of the solution to the systemic racism and inequality that persists in our society. We created an Inclusivity Intention Statement that led to the creation of our AIA PA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee (EDI), which has brought minds together from various corners of our commonwealth, both member and non-member, to collaborate and determine ways AIA Pennsylvania can contribute to positive change.
The committee has identified two overarching goals:
- Help diversify the profession of architecture in Pennsylvania
- Advocate for development and legislation that address systemic inequality in our built environments and underserved communities.
We recognize that we are not the first nor the only organization to work at positive change, yet we are working to leverage partnerships with local and national AIA EDI committees and with NOMA, the National Organization of Minority Architects. These relationships add to our own strength and diversity.
Thanks to the effort and foresight by Marc Mondor and Rich Davies, Hon. AIA, the EDI Committee is joining forces with two programs that help minority architecture students and graduates reach their full potential: Carnegie Mellon University’s UDream program in Pittsburgh and the Justice Alliance for Design Education (JADE) in Philadelphia.
Rich Davies, Hon. AIA, is an AIA Pennsylvania Preferred Partner who regularly collaborates with the state as a committee member weighing in on policy, strategy, and legal issues. In addition to his AIA contributions and his work at Milber, Makris, Plousadis, & Seiden, Rich is an integral voice at JADE in Philadelphia, helping to address the barriers minority students face. Rich saw how our EDI committee could assist JADE and connected the two organizations.
Marc Mondor, AIA, Immediate AIA Pennsylvania Past President and Inaugural Chair of the AIA PA EDI Committee knows first hand the benefits that the UDream program has brought to the city of Pittsburgh and his firm, evolveEA. “The UDream program created a win-win for us and for our region, giving promising interns relevant experience, while giving firms a depth that wouldn’t otherwise exist. We are proud to have employed many UDreamers over the last decade,” said Mondor. “What’s more is that Dr. Erica Cochran of Carnegie Mellon has been working with us to replicate the UDream model nationally.”
JADE in Philadelphia is a group of volunteer educators, professionals, and students who are working to address the unique barriers that architecture students of color face during their early years of college. Systemic racism and bias that exist in our higher education system often results in minority students leaving the architecture program before graduation. This alliance is made up of several colleges and universities focused on addressing these biases, educating faculty, and in turn encouraging students to continue on their educational path. Jamie Ober, AIA, a member of AIA Pennsylvania’s Board of Directors and EDI Committee, is a member of JADE and was also instrumental in bringing these groups together.
Carnegie Mellon’s UDream Program ran successfully for 8 years in the city of Pittsburgh by pairing architecture graduates with intensive postgraduate training, mentorship opportunities at local high schools, and a 12-week internship at local Pittsburgh architecture firms. UDream is responsible for more than 85% of all Black and Hispanic Architecture graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University. Additionally, the city of Pittsburgh saw over a 400% increase in underrepresented Minority representation in Architecture with 40-63% remaining in Pittsburgh with permanent jobs at the end of the program each year.
AIA Pennsylvania is excited to amplify the great work these organizations are doing by sourcing additional volunteers, enlarging the program to attract financial supporters, and sharing the model with other Pennsylvania universities who can replicate the same programs in their communities.