Architecture school launches diversity program

Brittany Wagner

The School of Architecture plans to launch a new program addressing race, gender and experience that will be taught by architecture lecturers Anna Brand and Andrea Roberts starting this spring.

This new program came to fruition with the help of the school’s Committee for Diversity + Equity. This committee was formed in 2015 under the instruction of Dean Fritz Steiner and the Diversity Task Force in order to promote greater diversity in the school’s programs. 

Charlton Lewis, a School of Architecture faculty member since 2006, teaches studio and seminar courses and co-chairs the Committee for Diversity and Community Engagement. In an earlier interview conducted by the School of Architecture, Lewis discussed the importance of diversity being taught in the classroom. 

“By introducing diversity and innovation in the classroom, students learn the benefits of an active discourse, gain the maturity required to engage in such a discourse, and begin to cast away their own preconceptions,” Lewis said in an interview. “It is through this approach to diversity in the classroom that my students, early in their academic career, become quite comfortable discussing the challenges inherent in the world today.”

The school has made concentrating on diversity a priority in the last several years, evident in the 2008 creation of the Diversity Task Force, which drafted a “Framework for Diversity” after evaluating opinions from students, faculty and staff. 

“We applaud the work of the School of Architecture as they focus on the intersection of race, gender and inequality in urban areas,” said Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement, in a press release. “There is great need for further study as the access and equity in our cities for those in the greatest need becomes more difficult by the day.”

The third goal outlined in the framework specifically calls for a program to “support educational methods and content that encourage diverse perspectives and ideas [and] encourage interdisciplinary professional and academic opportunities.” The initiative beginning in the spring will fulfill this goal. 

Brand and Roberts plan to collaborate with various departments across the UT campus, including the women and gender studies and African and African diaspora studies departments.  

Kathleen Stimpert, chief communications officer for the School of Architecture, has been working alongside the media to get out the word about the new program. 

“With this new initiative, we aim to both diversify the School of Architecture’s faculty and student body (and by extension, the fields of architecture, planning and design) and to contribute to the national dialogue through new course offerings and scholarship,” Stimpert said in an email. “The appointment of Anna Brand and Andrea Roberts is an important step in our effort to prepare the next generation of architects, planners, and designers to address these concerns.”