As one of our strategic priorities, enhancing diversity and inclusion benefits our students, college and campus. To never stop working toward more diversity, to continually become more inclusive and to achieve equity across our college and the profession, we have made significant advances and will always look for more opportunities to improve.
Focus on DEI
At the request of the UT vice chancellor of Diversity and Engagement in 2020, we named the college’s inaugural director of Diversity Relations, Asst. Professor Felicia Dean. In 2021, Dean stepped down to focus on teaching and research, and Assoc. Professor and Director of the School of Interior Architecture Milagros Zingoni was appointed to the role. Zingoni is a liaison between the college and many offices at UT to assist the university to achieve an engaged, equitable, inclusive climate conducive to the advancement of diverse faculty and students.
Focus on Students
To us, diversity goes beyond race and gender, because we know a diverse group of students, those who bring varying perspectives because of their roots or life experiences, yields richer ideas and design.
In 2021, about 70% of our student body were women. Only a decade before, that number was about 50%.
Our students represent a variety of economic levels, regional differences, physical challenges, family dynamics, ages, military backgrounds, high school or undergraduate experiences and more.
Many of our students are First Gen, the first in their families to go to college, yet many follow generations of scholars. Some have families of their own, and for many, this is their first time away from home.
In 2021, students in the college and in the School of Art, with whom we share the Art + Architecture Building, planned a celebration of culture for Black History Month. Through this, they were establishing a new culture to unite all disciplines in the A+A, elevate the contributions of Black designers in the curriculum and honor creators of color in February and beyond.
One of our student organizations, National Organization of Minority Architects Students (NOMAS), is dedicated to cultural pluralism and seeks to provide a collective voice for underrepresented students by building a sense of community.
Focus on Studios and Curriculum
Students need to be exposed to diverse thought and provocations about the role of architecture and design in the world. We bring these issues to light in our studios.
Studios in our college have recently focused on race and the American city, Black cultural traditions in public spaces, Black entrepreneurs, collaborations with economically-challenged rural areas, civil rights and the public form, critical impact issues in southern Appalachia, food insecurity, displacement, people with Alzheimer’s Disease and more.
Through our active student exchange program, we host close to 20 international students each year, adding another layer of diversity to the studios.
Focus on Faculty and Administration
For the first 40 years after the founding of our college in 1965, white American men dominated our student body, professorate, administration and lecture series. Beginning in 2010, we began to accelerate change to become more inclusive and to represent a more diverse perspective.
Through diversity-related awards from ACSA, IIDA, IDEC, NOMA and other respected organizations, faculty and their work continue to be recognized for bringing diversity to their studios and leadership.
Between 2012-2021, 11 new faculty members were hired—seven women and four men, following the retirement of six men.
Of the new faculty members, three represent international populations, and three are underrepresented minorities.
The School of Interior Architecture has the most diverse faculty in the country, representing many races, nationalities and cultures.
Focus on Lecturers and Reviewers
In 2021-2022, we hosted a series of college-wide workshops for faculty, staff and students that focused on race and racism, and we welcomed BIPOC designers as lecturers.
Our lecture series brings diverse presenters to our college, who elevate our thinking about critical issues, such as race in America and design for those with physical disabilities, the homeless population and more.
Exhibits in our college have brought to light how architecture impacts underrepresented populations.
The Tennessee RiverLine offers the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Community Impact Grants program and hosts the Paddlesports Leadership Academy for individuals from communities typically underserved by outdoor recreation.
In 2010, 2013 and 2017, three of our students earned the Gensler Diversity Scholarship, Asia Dixon, Tabitha Darko and Mustapha Williams, respectively. Founded by Gensler to cultivate a more diverse professional culture, the scholarship empowers African-American students to make a vivid impression on the architectural profession. Candidates are evaluated on their creative rigor, compelling designs and commitment to user-driven innovation.