The School of Architecture and Planning at the University at Buffalo is committed to fostering inclusion, equity, and justice within our school, and within the fields of the architecture, urban planning and real estate development.
We are enraged by and grieve the recent killing of Mr. George Floyd, and so many others, at the hands of a police officer. In support of racial justice and building on our collective commitment to equity, inclusion, and diversity, we wil execute an explicitly anti-racist approach across all our operations.
While other professions have made considerable progress, race and gender equity remains a major concern in architecture, urban planning and development, and among the organizations that oversee education and practice.
Too often, a discussion of equity, inclusion, and diversity begins and ends with the numbers. While increasing percentages of underrepresented minorities, women, and other marginalized groups are key measures of progress, numbers do not necessarily reflect the commitment a school of architecture and planning has to diversity and social justice.
If you are a student considering which program is right for you, ask at least three questions:
Most programs will have at least one (often more) courses that cover some aspect of equity, inclusion and diversity. These issues have become both important and popular topics across all majors, including architecture, planning, and design. The difference between deeply committed and partially committed programs is the depth and breadth of offerings. Again, this is in part about the numbers—how many courses are offered and across how many topic areas—but there is also a qualitative side. Are courses on diversity and social justice elective courses or are they part of the core curriculum? The number of major courses that explore issues of equity and social justice a program offers, especially studios, sends a clear message about its dedication. The top schools have entire programs focused on equity, inclusion and diversity.
The breadth and depth of offerings is, of course, tightly connected with the faculty members who teach in the program. Are equity and social justice courses all taught by the same person, or are multiple professors involved? More specifically, are they teachers only or are they researchers and designers that are leading the way? Do they write books, publish papers, or design or consult on architecture and planning projects? Do they collaborate with colleagues in other disciplines or work in the community? If promoting equity is important to you, it is likely that you will pursue a program, conduct a thesis, and/or seek professional opportunities that push this value forward. You will want a faculty mentor who shares your values, has contributed to this field, and is experienced in helping other students meet their goals. Leading schools will have multiple faculty members working at the forefront of design for equity and social justice.
The most committed schools will have a comprehensive strategic plan in equity, inclusion and diversity. It will include a mission statement, specific goals, and key strategies for achieving those goals. It will include both faculty and student recruitment, and it will include support systems like scholarships, academic advising, and social networking. If you find a school’s plan, check when it was last updated. Check how many people are involved in developing it and implementing it. This will give you a sense of how truly committed a school is.
It may also be worth asking a few final questions. Is there an active student group, such as NOMAS or, as our students have recently organized, the African American Students of Architecture and Planning? Are there opportunities to study abroad, or to chart your own educational path? Is there a formal mentoring program in place that matches your career goals with that of a faculty member of professional in the field?
Of course, a commitment to equity, inclusion and diversity is likely only one factor in your decision-making process as you weigh your options of where to apply or where to enroll. Affordability, the quality of the faculty, and other factors come into play. But a program’s meaningful commitment to equity, inclusion and diversity also tells you something about the values of the place. This, in turn, provides a glimpse into the framework of opportunities you may harness as you design your particular educational experience.