Cultivating Excellence: Building An Inclusive Community

We can’t be excellent if we’re not inclusive. It’s not only who we do or don’t attract based on the racial, ethnic or gender profiles of our faculties—or even how we teach based on our collective racial, ethnic, and cultural experiences that matter. Alone, these give more than ample cause to diversify our faculty, rectify inequities and become more inclusive with respect to race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. We must apply ourselves and our institutions to fixing these ills for those altruistic reasons relating to how we represent society, provide access, achieve equity, and do what’s right—but also at the core is what we teach and what architects, interior designers and construction managers do—design and construct places for people, of all backgrounds.

The data tells a disheartening story—the dearth of diversity, equity and inclusion in the Architecture, Interior Design and Construction Management professorate (HBCU’s and a few institutional anomalies notwithstanding). The design and construction of the built environment has consequences—on people’s lives, in the operation of institutions, relationships between people and people groups. It establishes urban patterns, sets hierarchies, inclusions, and exclusions, and reveals unconscious biases that directly impact people and society. The public, and by that we mean the full spectrum of people with respect to race, ethnicity, income, gender, age, ability, or orientation is impacted by the decisions and designs of the graduates we educate—by their values and aspirations to make better places for people, and by the blind spots that interfere with their ability to consider that full public spectrum. What our graduates design is significantly influenced by the educators who taught them. Each of those educators also has blind spots and sees through the lens of their own limited experiences. Our commitment is to develop best practices and ways we can work toward a more diverse, inclusive, and excellent faculty who broaden each other’s perspective in the education of a next generation of architects.

But if we are to change the profile and perspective of the professorate and the profession, we also need to increase the diversity of our students. In addition to breaking down barriers and providing better access, we need to show cause and create interest. Underserved communities do not currently see or know the potential of the architecture discipline to have a positive impact. Many see and experience the opposite. It’s not a passive plea for greater diversity. It’s a project and a commitment—to build pipelines, break down barriers, facilitate opportunities that will accelerate change and socialize the power and possibility of a more diverse profession with a more diverse and inclusive student and faculty body. It’s a call to expand awareness and vision, open avenues of engagement and create enabling initiatives that expand the scope of who we serve, and how we engage people and projects, with greater intellectual diversity, greater cultural awareness, greater empathy, and a greater perspective that will result in a more relevant discipline. We can’t be excellent in the service of our students or the public unless we are inclusive.

Mark Mistur, AIA, Dean