'Designing While Black' Panelists Explore Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Design Professions

A virtual panel discussion will explore issues and experiences in the architecture and design professions related to diversity, equity and inclusion.

The Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas will present "Designing While Black: A Conversation on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Design Professions," from 4-5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18. This virtual discussion will be held through the Zoom online platform, and it is open to the public. To register for the discussion, complete the registration form on Zoom.

"The Fay Jones School community is committed to building a better world," said Dean Peter MacKeith. "This commitment recognizes the essential, imperative work that needs to be done in design education and in the design professions to achieve full diversity, equity and inclusion. We need to change our culture: this transformation relies on changing the narratives of our design culture, on speaking out, listening attentively and engaging with each other in ways we have not done before. The November 18 panel presentations and discussion is an important first step, but only a first step, in this process. I am grateful to our school's DEI working group for their leadership in this, and I encourage all members of the school community to attend and participate."

For the "Designing While Black" event, a group of four panelists will discuss the issues and opportunities with regard to diversity, equity and inclusion — as well as the lack of these — in the design professions, said Gabriel Díaz Montemayor, ASLA, an associate professor of landscape architecture and the school's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) coordinator. In this conversation, Black alumni and faculty of the Fay Jones School — all practitioners and researchers — will share their views and perspectives on DEI.

"The year 2020, with the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, the massive protests happening during the summer, and the vulnerabilities of Blacks and other minority groups exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, once again brought to the foreground the long-standing systemic racism and inequalities lingering in American society," Díaz Montemayor said. "Year 2020 is meant to be a transformative year, so we finally get serious and work towards erasing social, economic, and environmental injustices in the United States."

The panelists participating in this discussion are Ngozi Brown, AIA, ASID, NCARB, NCIDQ, M.Ed., LEED AP, EDAC, GPCP, principal of NOB A+D in Little Rock; Reggie Wright, of RB Group Inc. and NOB A+D in Bentonville; Aeisha Smith, LEED AP; and C.L. Bohannon, Ph.D., ASLA, associate professor of landscape architecture and director of the Community Engagement Lab at Virginia Tech.

Brown is currently a faculty member at the Fay Jones School and is a licensed architect and certified interior designer. She was the second African American woman to be licensed as an architect in the state of Arkansas. Brown will bring into the conversation her experience and perspective on the professional fields of architecture and interior design, as well as her teaching experiences.

Smith is an interior design alumna of the Fay Jones School and also holds a Master of Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. She has professional experience working as an interior and architectural designer for large, award-winning firms in Chicago, including Epstein and HDR.

Wright is a practitioner of architecture and construction with more than 20 years of experience. He is also an architecture alumnus of the Fay Jones School. Wright has vast professional experience, with a particular focus on construction management in the state.

Bohannon is a landscape architecture alumnus of the Fay Jones School and an associate professor of landscape architecture at Virginia Tech, where he also directs the Community Engagement Lab. He will bring his social and environmental justice perspective and experience to the conversation.

"We hope that those who join us for this conversation will gain an understanding of the current conditions, issues and opportunities for DEI in our professional fields; a panorama of the significant work yet to be done to mitigate social, racial and environmental injustices in the areas where our professions act, and in the professions themselves; and the need to build together professions that represent the diversity of Arkansas, the region, and the USA," Díaz Montemayor said.

Fay Jones School students, faculty, staff and alumni, as well as the general public, are invited to take part in this conversation. The event moderators will be Díaz Montemayor and Michelle Pribbernow, the school's career specialist and co-coordinator of DEI, along with Jensen Johnson, an architecture alumna of the Fay Jones School and past president of the school's National Organization of Minority Architecture Students chapter. Anyone who would like to ask specific questions of the panelists can send those questions in advance to Díaz Montemayor at gabrield@uark.edu and/or to Pribbernow at mpribber@uark.edu.



Gabriel Diaz Montemayor, associate professor
Department of Landscape Architecture
479-575-4945, gabrield@uark.edu

Michelle Parks, director of communications
Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design
479-575-4704, mparks17@uark.edu


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