In the ongoing work to create a more diverse next generation of the profession, the Architects Foundation is expanding their mentor program for students that have been awarded their Diversity Advancement Scholarships. After receiving a request from Danielle Mitchell, a student at Cornell University and one of the 2021 scholars, to be paired with an architect mentor from the Architects League of Northern New Jersey area, Stacey Ruhle Kliesch, AIA, volunteered to serve.
Stacey has filled associated roles for many years, starting her term as AIA NJ IDP Coordinator in 1994, adding Associate Regional Director and keeping those roles until 1999. Stacey has also provided Architectural Education to grades K-12 since 1992. Currently, as the mom of a college freshman, Stacey felt very comfortable accepting the opportunity to work with an architecture student of the same age, provide guidance in the profession and connect Danielle with all of the right people and resources to support her through school and beyond.
Danielle, a resident of Bergen County, has been planning for her future for many years. She decided to pursue a career in architecture while she was in middle school. In fact, Danielle and Stacey met previously on February 6, 2020, at the AIA New Jersey Tower Challenge hosted by the AIA New Jersey K-12 Education Committee at Danielle’s high school in Tenafly. At their first mentoring meeting on Sunday, February 27, Danielle committed to working with Stacey as her Architects Foundation Mentor.
While Danielle noted that many of her classmates are already changing majors just one semester into freshman year, she is feeling confident that she is in the right program. Enjoying studio and history, Cornell is challenging her in all the right ways. She choose to attend her school because it is the only ivy league with an accredited B. Arch program. Danielle already has a summer internship lined up at Columbia University in NYC where her father, Dennis A. Mitchell, DDS, MPH, serves as the Executive Vice President for University Life, Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement and Professor of Dental Medicine at the Columbia University Medical Center.
ARCHITECTS FOUNDATION DIVERSITY ADVANCEMENT SCHOLARSHIP
Known by different names ranging from the AIA/Ford Scholarship to the AIA Minority Disadvantaged Scholarship Program to today’s Architects Foundation Diversity Advancement Scholarship, the AIA has awarded scholarships to minorities since 1970.
Prompted by the sage words of Whitney Young in his keynote speech to the AIA at the 1968 Convention, the scholarship was founded in 1969 when the AIA and Ford Foundation each pledged $500,000 to support three different groups of students’ education in the field of architecture.
The program sought to give scholarships, not only to those youths in financial need but to those who otherwise would not have other means to obtain a professional education. Since the Diversity Advancement Scholarship was launched in 1970, it has been awarded to over 2,300 students.
The Architects Foundation awards the Diversity Advancement Scholarships annually to rising first-year, second-year, and community college transfer students from a minority background who intend to study in a NAAB-accredited architecture program. These scholarships are supported by the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) and, in the 2018-19 school year, the program has more than doubled in size thanks to a 2016 gift of $1 million from the AIA.
ARCHITECTS FOUNDATION MENTORSHIP PROGRAM
Many students enter architecture programs with misconceptions about the realities of the profession and/or knowing very little about professional practice. The rigors of architecture programs often leave students so engrossed in their academic programs that they are left with little time to develop relationships outside of their school or college. Focusing on the success in their design studio, students are often unaware or lose sight of the important role professional relationships and networking can play in their professional careers. A lack of diversity in schools of architecture can also lead to a feeling of isolation for many minorities in architecture programs. To that end, the AF is launching a mentorship pilot program to support scholarship recipients during their time in their respective architecture programs.
While Stacey plans to be Danielle’s primary AIA NJ contact, she also intends to take Danielle to visit varied architecture firms and meet other professionals at committee and membership meetings. They have preliminary plans for their next meeting when Danielle gets home from school followed by an invitation to attend the June 16th Architects League Scholarship Dinner at Lambert Castle.
As the AIA NJ Chair for the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Architecture Committee, Stacey is managing the volunteer list for the AIA NJ participants in the Architects Foundation Mentorship Program. If you’d like to volunteer to mentor another student or wish to invite Danielle and Stacey to take a field trip to your office or a project under construction in the future, please contact Stacey at firstname.lastname@example.org.