At the start of the current semester, SmithGroup entered into a five-year partnership with three Historically Black Universities—Florida A&M University, Hampton University, and Howard University—through which the design firm is providing financial support for programming needs, an internship program, and academic mentorship.
African-American students currently account for a minuscule number of architectural degrees awarded each year. The seven Black colleges and universities that offer National Architectural Accrediting Board-approved programs award nearly one-third of the architecture degrees earned by Black students in the United States, according to the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. The intent of SmithGroup’s partnership program is to increase these numbers and, in turn, further diversify the industry’s talent pipeline.
Initiating this partnership program was Taft Cleveland, Assoc. AIA, Assoc. APA, LEED GA, NOMA, an alumnus of Florida A&M’s School of Architecture and Engineering Technology, who works as a design architect for SmithGroup’s healthcare practice in Chicago. Cleveland also earned an M.Arch degree from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
Through this partnership, select SmithGroup architectural and engineering staff are lecturing at each university, giving students an understanding of how architects collaborate with other design disciplines, how successful businesses operate, and what collaboration skills are needed to be successful.
SmithGroup employees also participate in biweekly virtual desk crits providing feedback and mentorship as students advance through their coursework. Staff will serve as jurors for the program’s midterm and/or final projects.
FUND RAISING AND TUITION ASSISTANCE
The firm will select students from each university for paid summer internships with its Chicago, Detroit or Washington, D.C. offices to provide practical learning opportunities in a real-world setting.
Dr. Hazel Edwards, Professor and Chair in the Department of Architecture at Howard University’s College of Engineering and Architecture, says the partnership with SmithGroup is supporting the department’s third-year studio, which focused on housing. Some of SmithGroup’s instructors, who include some Howard graduates, complement the school’s studio instructors.
Smith Group also raised $12,000 in personal donations to provide Howard architecture students with personal laptops.
Since 2018, SmithGroup has conducted an annual Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion scholarship program that supports and mentors students from historically underrepresented demographics in architecture, interior design, planning, landscape architecture, and engineering. The firm has awarded $90,000 in tuition aid to 15 recipients across the country.