The college experience is often made richer by the relationships you build, the friends you make and the things you learn about yourself; for minority students those experiences are often colored by their race, gender or sexual orientation. In Fall 2016, architecture students formed a new student organization to offer support for students from underrepresented groups. The National Organization for Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS) aims to “provide role models to encourage, inspire, and provide a sense of belonging in the field of architecture.” The organization is a student chapter of the National Organization for Minority Architects (NOMA).
With the assistance of faculty advisors Dean Michael Lykoudis and Assistant Dean Samantha Salden Teach, NOMAS is a place where minority students can engage with key issues and focus on creating a positive experience for all students at the School of Architecture. NOMAS, still in its’ early stages, has been holding regular meetings and students are excited to get involved and make an impact. Sophomore Erikc Perez-Perez hopes “to learn about other’s stories and how they work to contribute to diversification in the field of architecture…[so] I could form my own ideas about what I could personally devote as a student.”
In their first full academic year on campus, NOMAS is focusing on building relationships and forming a supportive network and community within and beyond the School of Architecture. This semester their focus, according to NOMAS President Gabriel Jacobs, is three-pronged. Students plan to connect with NOMAS groups at other institutions; create a space for relationships between minority upperclassmen and underclassmen at the School of Architecture; and foster professional mentor relationships.
During the fall semester five architecture students attended the Annual NOMA International Conference and Exposition held in Los Angeles. Express Yourself, the theme of the 2016 conference, is a mantra that seems to bridge the personal need for safety, affirmation and autonomy with the professional need for career opportunities and connecting with like-minded architects and designers. Alexandria McKinney, a sophomore who attended the conference said that “it was refreshing to see minorities from different cultural backgrounds and experiences share how they have successfully become the great architects and designers they are today.” The conference experience proved to be one of both personal and professional growth.
Students are optimistic about the impact that a group like NOMAS can make at the School of Architecture and the wider university community. McKinney hopes “NOMAS continues to leave its imprint on the School of Architecture and help lead it to a more diverse and inviting environment for all those who are interested in architecture.”