NFF 2021 Cohort Announced

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The Official Logo of the National Organization of Minority Architects

WASHINGTON, D.C., JUN. 10, 2021

The National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) announced its third class of 24 architecture students as the 2021 summer cohort of the NOMA Foundation Fellowship (NFF). NFF is a two-month research fellowship hosted both virtually and in-person at leading architecture firms across the country this summer. Additionally, the NFF 2021 cohort will engage in design research and benefit from firm mentorship. NFF provides professional experience to underrepresented students to connect them to the profession and provide a pipeline to eventual employment.

“I’m excited about NFF’s third cohort of fellows because they are the next generation of Black and minority architects and designers. This fellowship provides mentorship and firm access for these young professionals which is crucial to achieving our 2030 Diversity Challenge goals,” said NOMA President and Gensler Senior Associate Jason Pugh, NOMA, AIA, AICP, LEED AP. “This is more than just an opportunity for NOMA fellows to get a foot in the door; it is an opportunity to blow the door of its hinges and begin to pave the way for minority architects and designers that follow.” 

Responding to the Diversity Challenge

The NOMA Foundation Fellowship program was the first initiative to launch since the announcement of the AIA Large Firm Round Table (AIA LFRT) 2030 Diversity Challenge. It called for the industry to increase the number of licensed Black architects from 2,300 to 5,000 by 2030. Doing so will expand representation from 2 percent to roughly 4 percent Black licensed architects in the U.S. NOMA originally launched the NFF as a three-month summer design fellowship in 2020. However, COVID-19 forced the restructuring of the program. It now ensures fellows and firms are availed of meaningful experiences while protecting their health and wellness. To provide the most flexibility for firms, the NFF 2021 cohort will be able to experience both Virtual and In-Person internships for the 2021 program.

The fellowships application process for the NFF 2021 cohort was open to National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS) members in good standing. The summer program will run for eight weeks from June 14th – August 6th, 2021. Fellows will receive a $2,560 stipend and $1,000 Licensure Stipend if they become licensed architects within 5 years of completing the fellowship. The program and application process was managed by Melanie Ray, AIA, LEED Green Assoc., NOMA, NCARB, NOMA Northeast University Liaison and an Associate at Hord Coplan Macht. 

Meet the NFF 2021 Cohort

The NFF 2021 cohort includes the following architecture students and graduates placed at design firms across the U.S:  

  • Yasmeen Abdelaal, The University of the District of Columbia, at EYP 
  • Gladis Y. Adorno, Kean University, at Gould Evans
  • Moid Ali, Illinois Institute of Technology, at WRNS Studio
  • Kristal Audish, Cal Poly Pomona, at CannonDesign
  • Emmanuella Bakare, Penn State University, at HGA – Boston
  • Teisha Bradley, Rhode Island School of Design, Salazar Architects
  • Xochitl Castel, Illinois Institute of Technology, at HGA – Minneapolis
  • James Chidiac, California Baptist University, at Valerio Dewalt Train
  • Milamem Lauriane Donang, Georgia Tech, HKS
  • Onyi Egbochue, Pratt Institute, at Perkins&Will – NYC
  • Jalyn Grays, Hampton University*, at Moody Nolan
  • Andrea Gomez, Rice University, at LS3P
  • Gabriela Gonjon, The City College Of New York, at  ZGF Architects – Seattle
  • Durmon Jones, Morgan State University*, at Quinn Evans
  • Kelsey Mitchell, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, at Perkins&Will – Atlanta
  • Shaela Nelson, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, at Snow Kreilich Architects
  • Nwando Onochie, The Ohio State University, at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
  • Himesh Patel, Columbia University, at RS&H, Inc.
  • Diana Hernandez-Serrano, California Baptist University, HGA – Alexandria
  • Miranda Sharp, Louisiana Tech University, at  Ayers Saint Gross
  • Amalia Sosa, California Baptist University, at OTJ
  • Damla Begum Sucuka, Illinois Institute of Technology, at Perkins&Will – Chicago
  • Alexander Thomas, Macalester College, at FX Collaborative
  • Jeter Vasquez, Kean University, at Valerio Dewalt Train

Five of NFF 2021 cohort are either students or graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities* (HBCUs). Founded after the Civil War but before the 1964 Civil Rights Act, HBCUs created education and degree opportunities for African Americans when no other colleges or universities would. Specifically, the Morrill Act of 1890 required states to provide land-grants for colleges to serve Black students. It allowed HBCUs to build their own campuses. As land-grant funded schools, HBCUs mission was not only to educate free and newly free Blacks, but also people from all low socioeconomic populations, including Whites. HBCUs are historic institutions. More importantly, their mission statements show their ability and desire to educate those who were denied higher education, both by law and by practice.

The Impact of NOMA Foundation Fellowships

To date, over 60 students have been awarded NOMA Foundation Fellowships since the program’s founding in 2020, which started during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“I applaud the individuals at the NOMA fellowship for adapting quickly last year during the pandemic. I was able to complete my fellowship virtually and make a lifetime connection with my mentor. ” said Dejanae Wright, a graduate architecture student at Morgan State University and NOMA NFF alumni. “Being able to continue my professional development during such an uncertain time was important for my growth and I have to thank the NOMA fellowship for that.”

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About NOMA

The National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) was formed 50 years ago to represent the needs of African American architects. Founded in 1971 at the AIA conference in Detroit, NOMA’s purpose was to bolster and provide support for the handful of Black licensed architects around the country. Today, NOMA is a haven for architects of all origins who seek inclusion in the design industry.

We continue to advocate for the licensure of African American architects (who account for only two percent of all licensed architects today). NOMA also advocates for those from other from underrepresented backgrounds. Due to the strong presence of student leaders from over 80 schools across the U.S. and Canada, we are extremely hopeful about the profession’s future. As we continue to support our NOMA students (NOMAS), we anticipate they will be major contributors to our field. Moreover, we are proud of the work they are doing right now to prepare for the future.

Overall, NOMA has nearly 35 professional chapters across the U.S. and over 80 student chapters. Our regional chapters mentor the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS) chapters. NOMA and NOMAS membership is predominantly African-American. Other minority members include Native American, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, East Indian, and Asian. In addition, NOMA has an increasing segment of non-minority members who support our mission. Because NOMA supports its student members by providing mentorship, scholarships, and job opportunities, we help ensure their successful transition into the profession.