Tree with red and orange leaves in front of Marvin Hall

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging

Statement on a Diverse, Inclusive and Equitable Community

The School of Architecture & Design is dedicated to an inclusive, diverse and equitable learning, teaching and working environment for its community of students, staff and faculty. We believe that the process of design is elevated when differences are respected, ideas are shared and people are connected. We recognize that all people should have a say in the creation of their own environment. 

As we aspire to advance the culture of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at the School of Architecture and Design, we will do so within the framework laid out by the University. This task demands a collaborative approach and one that integrates culturally competent protocols and policies in our everyday ideas, thinking and practices. 

To fulfill this mission, we focus on four priorities. Each priority represents objectives, initiatives, and indicators of success that are designed to achieve excellence, generate organizational change, and ensure community accountability to facilitate progress of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging within the school. The development and execution of these initiatives is an on-going effort with regular feedback, refinement, and reallocation of resources.

1. Building a diverse community of students, staff, and faculty

Growth of a diverse student body at the school is linked to generating awareness and interest in the design professions among high/middle school students of predominantly underrepresented populations. Several pathway programs are established for this purpose. To build a socially diverse community of faculty and staff, the School follows KU’s guidelines in recruiting faculty and staff.

2. Ensuring students’ success

Having recruited students from historically underrepresented and underserved populations, the school’s mission is then to ensure that students receive necessary support to thrive in their education, gain necessary skills to become competent designers, develop confidence in themselves, and receive guidance for professional development. A more critical aspect of this goal is to maintain a high rate of retention of minority students within their respective degree programs and to help them graduate in time. This goal could be achieved in terms of financial support and academic mentoring the students receive to address historical disparities and inequalities in economic and opportunity equities that they have encountered.

3. Offering learning & research experiences that address DEIB concerns in design disciplines

Design education as well as design professions have predominantly been Euro-centric, racialized, and patriarchal for centuries. Our studios and courses should create learning and creative opportunities that facilitate students to be informed of such biases in the social history of our design professions and design education. Designing curricula with attention to DEIB in design education thus means that students receive opportunities to learn about, value, and respect a broader spectrum of non-western and multicultural histories, experiences, and approaches to design the built environment, visual media, and products. They should learn how policies, practices, and products associated with design professions could be means of social discrimination, underpinned by political intentions geared toward social injustice. Students should be conscious of designing inclusive and universal spaces, media, and products for all groups of people. Understanding the privileged status that design disciplines have in the larger society should also help students to learn about how to engage the values, needs, and views of the underprivileged in the design process.

4. Creating an inclusive place for all at the school

It is the collective responsibility of students, staff, and faculty to create a positive and supportive climate at the school. When we all are engaged in the creative activities together and we all feel valued and respected, a strong sense of belonging among all as a single school community will emerge. Feeling being included and a part of the school community is the outcome of all DEI initiatives.

  • Annual Summer Design Camps
  • Design Workshops and Design Foundations Curriculum for high/middle school teachers
  • Outreach to high/middle schools and community colleges in the region with large minority student populations
  • Collaborations with community partners such as Public-School Districts in the region, NOMA-KC, AIA-Wichita, and 20/20 Leadership Program in Kansas City for developing pipeline programs
  • Multicultural Architecture Scholars Program (MASP)
  • Multicultural Design Scholars Program (MDSP)
  • Kwame Study Abroad Scholarships for African American architecture students
  • Academic/Career mentoring and access to mental health counseling
  • Student Success Programs such as Peer Mentoring, Portfolio Review, and Mock Interviews
  • Learning opportunities with immersive multicultural experiences and community engagement
  • Developing specific courses on design ethics/design justice
  • Integrating DEI content in classroom/studio activities
  • Offering co-curricular activities that introduce students to discourses on design justice
  • Kivett Faculty Development Fund for teaching and research into DEIB in architecture
  • Opportunities to develop sensitivity and awareness on DEI issues
  • Listening sessions with student groups, staff, and faculty
  • Financial support for activities organized by student groups
  • Effective faculty/staff mentoring and professional development

2022-2023 Activities

Diversity Alliance at the School of Architecture & Design

The School of Architecture & Design has renewed their efforts to increase diversity at the school by striving to create an inclusive, diverse, and equitable learning, teaching, and working environment for its students, staff, and faculty.  To help make this a reality, the school has formed a group of architecture and design firms known as the Diversity Alliance, who recognize the lack of diversity within our profession, feel an urgency to address this inequality, and have the desire to support the school’s efforts in this area. To become a member of the Diversity Alliance, firms are asked to make a 5-year funding commitment, based on the firm’s size, to any of the school’s DEIB initiatives. Members of the Diversity Alliance will meet with the school’s DEIB leadership and students once a year to discuss the past years’ efforts, plan for the upcoming year, and receive updates on overall progress towards increased diversity. Each member firm will also be able to send employees to studio reviews, portfolio reviews, or other similar academic and professional development opportunities to interact directly with students and review their work. When possible, these reviews will include DEIB student groups within the school such as MASP, MDSP, ID-BIPOC, and NOMAS.  The kick-off meeting of the Diversity Alliance will be held on October 20, 2022.

2021-2022 Activities

Design Camp Students with faculty on the Marvin Hall Front Stairs
Design Camp Students with faculty on the Marvin Hall Front Stairs

Summer Design Camp 2022

In 2022, the School’s annual Design Camp provided full scholarship to 20 high school students of underrepresented populations in the Kansas City metropolitan area school districts to attend the one-week camp and learn about architecture and design. Students from the 20/20 Leadership Program in Kansas City came from Bonner Springs High School, Sumner Academy of Arts & Sciences, Turner High School, and Wyandotte High School. Eleven students from the Kansas City Public Schools District came from Central High School, East High School, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy, MCC Penn Valley Community College, Paseo Academy, and Southeast High School. This resident summer camp included campus tours, Welcome Reception with a keynote speaker (Designer Nicole Satterwhite), Academic Spotlight presentations on Illustration & Animation, Industrial Design, Photography, Visual Communication, Architecture, and Interior Architecture, and evening activities such as Movie/ Game Nights and visits to Sylas & Maddy’s Ice Cream on Massachusetts Street, Lawrence. Campers attended eight Design Workshops during the week. The Morning Workshops focused on Interior of a Student Hangout Lounge (Prof. Mohammad Dastmalchi), Minecraft, Cities, & Architecture (Prof. Thom Allen), Symmetry and Stories (Prof. Sam Yates), and What The Zine? How Photographs Speak (Prof. Alec Smith). The Afternoon Workshops included Architecture: A Spatial Journey (Prof. Anne Patterson), Bookmaking (Prof. Linda Samson Talleur), Character Design and Animation (Prof. Kent Smith), and Footwear Design (Prof. Betsy Barnhart). On the last day, students presented their design work to their families, guests, and teachers, and received Certificates of Participation at the Closing Reception. The school’s DEIB Committee members April Czarnetzki and Whitney Juneau planned and coordinated the summer camp activities.

Professor Sam Yates with Hickman Mills students on the in-person day of the summer camp.
Professor Sam Yates with Hickman Mills students on the in-person day of the summer camp.

KU Design Camp + Pathways to Design | June 21–24

Sam Yates Meier, multi-term lecturer in Visual Communication, facilitated a week-long online adaptation of KU’s Design Camp. The collaboration between KU’s School of Architecture and Design, Pathways to Design, Prep KC, and the Hickman Mills School District was coordinated by April Czarnetzki, Student Recruitment Coordinator. The workshop hosted a total of 20 high school students who received full scholarship from KU to attend. Students participated in a hybrid personal branding workshop where they created and explored brands, logos, and graphic design. The week consisted of three virtual lectures and one in-person work/presentation day where participates shared their own uniquely created responsive logo system and brand assets. 

Pathways to Design is a program that introduces students to design software and builds on learning objectives as their various programs progress. Students have professional mentors within different industries, to give them a glimpse of what the professional side of the skills they are learning can translate into. Some of the students can receive college credit for participation in the courses as well. Prep KC creates and implements strategies that help students attending Kansas City’s urban school districts succeed in college and their careers. This is the second installment of this program in partnership with KU’s Design Camp. 

Professor Mohammad Dastmalchi conducting a design workshop at NOMA-KC Project Pipeline Summer Camp.
Professor Mohammad Dastmalchi conducting a design workshop at NOMA-KC Project Pipeline Summer Camp.

NOMA-KC Pipeline Project Architecture Summer Camp | Summer 2022

The National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) Kansas City Chapter annually holds an architecture summer camp for middle and high school students of underrepresented populations in the Kansas City area to introduce students of minority backgrounds to the profession of architecture and to encourage them to choose architecture as their career path. Five architecture faculty members of the school collaborated with NOMA-KC to develop and deliver the curriculum for this 5-day long summer camp in June 2022. Twenty middle and high school students of minority backgrounds participated in the camp. Activities included the introduction to urban analysis through Kevin Lynch’s elements of city image, different definitions and terminology in urban planning, a hands-on block planning activity, visits to architectural firms, learning about the elements and principles of architecture, playing games in which they learned about building's relationships within an urban block, developing skills in orthographic drawings, scale, bubble and block diagrams, and the design thinking process. On the fourth day, students finalized their designs and built physical models, following the guidelines provided by NOMA-KC. On the final day, parents and family members came to see their children's work and presentation. Architecture faculty members Amy van de Riet, Thom Allen, Abbey Ockinga, Mohammad Dastmalchi, and Shannon Criss participated in the camp. The KU faculty members were sponsored with summer stipends from the school’s DEIB General Funds.

Course Redesign Institute | Summer 2022

Seven architecture faculty members and three design faculty members participated in the Course Redesign Institute (CRI) organized by the KU Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) in summer 2022 to revise and redesign the curricular of their studios and required courses in architecture, design, and interior architecture to include content related to diversity, inclusion, and equity in design professions. It is expected that revised courses with DEI related content would (a) deepen students’ awareness in design/social justice, ethical considerations in the practice of architecture and design, multicultural diversity in design professions, and DEIB concerns in the professions of architecture and design; and (b) help them translate such understanding into designed environments that equitably support and include people of different backgrounds, voices, resources, and abilities. In addition, such course redesign is expected to improve the retention, progression, and academic success of students from underrepresented groups. It is expected that the revised courses/studios will be continuously offered and updated in the next five years. The 10 faculty members were given a stipend, which was supported by the Kivett Faculty Development Fund for Architecture and the School’s DEIB General Fund.

New Student Resource Hub | Summer 2022

Over the summer, the School’s communications team developed a new Student Resource Hub on the school website to centralize information, resources, upcoming happenings, and opportunities. Additionally, the weekly email to internal school stakeholders was reworked to provide consistency across messaging and access to information.

Finals Weeks Meals | Spring 2022

The School of Architecture & Design strives to foster an environment where all members of our design community feel a sense of belonging, have access to various opportunities and resources, and are provided with the necessary tools to succeed. Last academic year, the school hosted several events with a DEIB focus including all-school lunches, finals week meals in which we provided food for 100 students each of three nights during the Stop Week. Through the Department of Design Lunch and Learn series, several holistic wellness and personal development activities were hosted to promote a variety of experiences for our students.

Survey on Diversity and Inclusion | Spring 2022

The school DEIB Committee developed and distributed a survey to the student body to better understand the efficacy of the school’s programming meeting or not the needs of our students. One of the main takeaways from the survey was that while the school offers various professional and personal development opportunities, our students do not always know that they are happening.

High school students from KC Public Schools at the Marvin Forum
High school students from KC Public Schools at the Marvin Forum

High School Student Visits | Spring 2022

Through partnerships with NOMA-KC, Kansas City Public Schools District (KCPSD), and The 20/20 Leadership Program, the school hosted over 160 high school students of underrepresented populations in the Kansas City metropolitan area on campus to introduce them to pathways to design professions and to recruit future designers. The students were provided lunch and spent time visiting the East Hills Design-Build Facility and Marvin and Chalmers Halls in addition to interacting with School of Architecture and Design faculty and students.

HOK Diversity X Design Scholarship 2021 & 2022

Architecture seniors Madeline Bradley (in 2022) and Darius Mathis (2021) received the prestigious HOK Diversity X Design Scholarship ($ 10,000) for their all-round performance as architecture students. This annual scholarship is given to students of BIPOC backgrounds who are juniors/seniors in accredited architecture programs to support their academic and professional pursuits. Through this scholarship, the architecture firm HOK promotes diverse voices in the profession that represent their communities and clients.


NOMA-KC Visit to the School of Architecture and Design | Spring 2022

The leadership of the Kansas City Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) visited KU School of Architecture and Design in April 2022. The team, led by Architect Tabitha Darko of the MutiStudio of Kansas City, met with the students of the KU Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS) for a social event for networking with students and for providing advice on professional development.

MASP + MDSP Annual Celebration | Spring 2022

MASP and MDSP scholars, donors to the program, and faculty leaders of the school attended a lunch ceremony in the KU Union to celebrate our MSP students’ academic successes and graduation of several MASP+MDSP students in May 2022.

Expansion of Multicultural Scholars Program at the School of Architecture and Design | Fall 2021

Established in 1992, the Multicultural Scholars Program (MSP) at the University of Kansas supports the recruitment, retention, academic success, and career preparation of diverse populations of undergraduate students across all academic units in the university. MSP program champions KU's commitment to maintaining a diverse campus community where all students have equitable opportunities to succeed in their academic and professional experiences. MSP provides financial support and social and professional network through small communities within students' academic units and a broader group of students and alumni across disciplines. Students participate in cohort activities that offer space to share experiences, practice civic engagement through extracurricular activities, and participate in opportunities that enhance their readiness for careers or graduate studies. In addition to the scholarship funding, MSP opportunities include career preparation beyond the classroom curriculum, community engagement and leadership experience, and active membership in an ever-growing social and professional network of MSP Jayhawks past and present.

The MSP program in the Department of Architecture – Multicultural Architecture Scholars Program (MASP) - was established 2003 and has been supporting approximately 15 students annually. In 2021, MASP has been expanded to include 25 architecture students, mentored by two Architecture faculty advisors. In addition, MASP was also expanded to include interior architecture students. Ten interior architecture MASP scholars are now advised by the Director of the Interior Architecture Program. The Design Department never participated in the university-wide MSP Program. In 2021, the inaugural Multicultural Design Scholars Program (MDSP) was founded with 15 design students, mentored by a Design faculty member. MDSP Program connects and supports our students in Illustration, Industrial Design, Photography, and Visual Communication.

In MASP and MDSP at the School of Architecture and Design, we focus on advising and preparing our scholars to be a pioneering force for achieving a global impact through the design of the built environment, media, and products. Our programs provide financial scholarships, help students reach their full potential, and prepare them to be leaders in their fields. MASP and MDSP scholars participate in a variety of events connecting them with professionals and providing social activities to bring our students together and form a strong community.

DEIB Leadership

The diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging initiatives at the School of Architecture and Design are led by the School’s DEIB Committee comprising faculty, staff, and students. These efforts are supported by the DEIB Committee of the School’s Professional Advisory Board.

Faculty Representatives

Betsy Barnhart, Assistant Professor of Design; Director of Multicultural Design Scholars Program (MDSP)

Mohammad Dastmalchi, Assistant Professor of Interior Architecture

Hannah Park, Assistant Professor of Design

Mahbub Rashid, Interim Dean of the School, Professor of Architecture

Kapila D. Silva, Professor of Architecture; Associate Dean for DEIB; Co-director of Multicultural Architecture Scholars Program (MASP)

Amy Van De Riet, Assistant Teaching Professor of Architecture

Staff Representatives

April Czarnetzki, Student Recruitment Coordinator

Whitney Juneau, Director of Co-Curricular Affairs

Student Representatives

Rachel Fosselman, Architecture

Alyssa Jones, Industrial Design

Kaitlin Salanski, Interior Architecture

Grace Sather, Visual Communications

Affiliated Faculty

Hui Cai, Associate Professor/ Chair or Architecture Department

Jae D. Chang, Professor/Associate Chair of Architecture; Co-director of Multicultural Architecture Scholars Program

Shannon Criss, Professor of Architecture; Faculty Advisor for National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS)

Nisha Fernando, Associate Professor/ Director of Interior Architecture; Co-director of Multicultural Architecture Scholars Program

Jeremy Shellhorn, Associate Professor/ Chair of Design Department