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 and 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. 

DEIB Goals

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.

Initiatives and Opportunities

  • 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

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)

Gregory Crichlow, Assistant Professor of Architecture; Faculty Advisor for National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS)

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)

Nilou Vakil, Associate Professor of Architecture; Faculty Advisor for Women in Design (WID)

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