The National Organization of Minority Architects announced a new class of 10 architecture students from historically Black colleges and universities, forming the 2021 winter cohort of the NOMA Foundation Fellowship. During the two-month virtual research fellowship, hosted by leading architects across the country, the fellows will gain professional experience, industry connections, and career development advice. In many ways, the program serves as a pipeline to eventual employment—one ripe with opportunities.
Once underway, students are encouraged to address timely design challenges, including issues of sustainability, historic preservation, and social housing. And their work is beyond relevant—it’s necessary. For example, Tony Fitzgerald, a fellow from the inaugural cohort last summer worked with the team at David Baker Architects to research the carbon impact of modular construction versus state construction in the California climate. “It’s beyond words to describe what a blessing this opportunity was,” Fitzgerald says, highlighting the value of connecting with likeminded peers and being able to re-establish the AIA Student chapter at his alma mater, the University of the District of the Columbia.
Encouraging firms to find the next generation of architects outside of the usual feeder-schools, the fellowship aims to create a more equitable environment for all architecture and design professionals. As Kimberly Dowdell, former president of NOMA and HOK principal, notes: "Mentorship is a key component to the success of any architect, and almost any NOMA member can name at least three people that helped them overcome obstacles to get them to where they are now."