February 12, 2019 Ambroziak Receives National Diversity Award

Profile Photo of Katherine Ambroziak
Katherine Ambroziak, associate dean and associate professor of Architecture, has been named a recipient of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture’s 2019 Diversity Achievement Award.  The honor recognizes work that effectively achieves diversity in curricula, incorporating contributions of historically underrepresented groups or contexts.

In all, three people from across the country received the national award, which demonstrate a “positive stimulating influence on diversity within architecture education, schools and the community,” according to the ACSA.

In 2008, Ambroziak began working with the Knoxville ReAnimation Coalition, a grassroots organization in East Knoxville that focuses on educating and creating social wealth among Knoxville’s African-American communities through projects that illuminate and valorize its past achievements. Together, their focus has been on the reclamation of Odd Fellows Cemetery. The six-acre burial ground was established in the 1880s by multiple African-American fraternal community organizations, all of whom disbanded in the 1930s leaving the cemetery without ownership.

With support from the city of Knoxville, Ambroziak and the KRC developed a program that proposes a community-focused rehabilitation that directly addresses the negative physical and social influences affecting the area and offers the community a safe, engaging, and respectful environment to rediscover its heritage and build pride.

“The project is constantly evolving, responding to the input of the community and our volunteers,” said Ambroziak. This volunteer base includes those participating in programs through UT’s Center for Leadership and Service, UT faculty and students from various colleges, community organizations, and community members in East Knoxville. “We work to make sure engagement activities address the volunteers’ particular interests, focusing on issues of social justice and activism, and representing the stories embedded in the cemetery’s cultural fabric.”

Ambroziak has shared the reclamation project with students through seminars, exhibits, service-learning opportunities, design/build projects and studios in the College of Architecture and Design and across UT. In 2009 she kicked off the program with an illumination ceremony conducted by students in her joint studio; in 2013 she began the long-term project, Community Passage, to build an accessible walkway system; and in 2015 she and her students designed, fabricated and installed Civil War memoria at the gravesites of veterans buried in the cemetery. Approximately 5 percent of the entire undergraduate population at UT have gained exposure to the community and culture through these and other service-oriented activities.

Ambroziak’s research and design have been recognized nationally and internationally. Awards include the Religious Art and Architecture Merit Award for Religious Architecture from Faith & Forum Magazine and the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture; an American Institute of Architects Award of Merit; and the Fred & Rosalee Oakley Award from the Association for Gravestone Studies. She has published and presented her research at national conferences and continues to develop new projects to support the growing interests of the community.

“[Ambroziak’s] longstanding engagement with the East Knoxville community…is among the most rigorous, authentic and enduring commitment to diversity and inclusion I have witnessed at the University of Tennessee,” said Kelly Ellenburg, program manager for UT’s Imagine Tennessee, in nominating Ambroziak. “[This initiative] has been a shining example of how reciprocal processes and foundations of trust can empower marginalized students and communities in ‘reclaiming their spaces’ within contemporary and historic landscapes of social, cultural and economic power.”

Scott Wall, professor in the UT School of Architecture, stated in a nomination letter, “Quietly but compellingly her work with underserved communities in Southeastern Tennessee, in Clay County, Kentucky, in Fond-des-Blancs, Haiti, and most enduringly, in the communities in East Knoxville at Odd Fellows Cemetery have directly impacted those communities, as well as ten-plus years of student participants in her studio and seminar coursework.”

Odd Fellows Cemetery is located at 2001 Bethel Avenue.


Learn More

Katherine Ambroziak’s work in Odd Fellows Cemetery

Ambroziak’s feature in UT’s student-managed newspaper, The Daily Beacon

Our design/build program