Build Back Better Bravebackdrop2 James Garrett, Jr., AIA, NOMA, and Nathan Johnson, AIA, NOMA, Receive AIA Minnesota 2020 Gold Medal

Build Back Better – A Message from President Dowdell

November 7, 2020

Dear NOMA Family,

Today, I greet you with thoughts of well-being and peace. November has not only brought us a very close U.S. Presidential race, it is also bringing COVID-19 back to many of our communities in full force. Please follow all of the safety protocols that were communicated when we experienced our first wave earlier this year. Your health is of utmost importance, so please take good care of yourself and your loved ones. We want to be able to see you in Detroit next year at NOMA 50, October 20-23, 2021.

Between now and then, I would also like to see NOMA continue to grow and flourish as an organization, advancing our mission. While my presidency will be coming to a close at the end of next month, I’ll remain on the board as Immediate Past President to support Jason Pugh in his duties to lead us into an even stronger future for the next two years. Since I’ve been in this leadership role on behalf of NOMA, I have learned a lot about what it means to represent a group of people who have many things in common, while also having different and sometimes competing interests. Regardless of these differences, what ties us together as NOMA members is so much stronger than anything else.

This same notion applies to American citizens. We have seen how divided our nation is on certain issues, but it has become less clear how our interests and passions align. There has been a lot of focus on counting red votes and blue votes lately for obvious reasons. We need to exercise democracy and this is how it works. However, now that the counting of votes has yielded a result, it is vital that what we count on now is each other. Let me be clear in saying that NOMA is a professional organization and is non-partisan. We have members who voted blue and red. I have family members who voted blue and red. Now that the tallies have totaled in favor of blue, we must put aside our partisan differences and unite around our commons ties. We must communicate with one another, support one another and build bridges to a more peaceful and prosperous future, united.

We must unite as a community to support healing our nation and building a better future. As NOMA has been encouraging throughout the year, we appreciate all of you who voted in this election. You can clearly see why that was important. Every single vote made a difference this year. Please always remember this and vote in every election with the same level of vigor and determination. Nearly half of the U.S. voted for someone who you didn’t vote for. This means that you don’t always know another person’s opinion or perspective, but you must always treat everyone with dignity and respect. When your opinions vary, find the common ground first. There is always common ground and that is where peace can prevail over turmoil.

Brave Wide

2020 has magnified so much about our nation, from disaster response readiness to racial relations and our stark political differences. While so many things remain troubling for communities of color in this nation, it is now time to Build Back Better. Rebuild your relationships with people who don’t always think like you, rebuild your companies and organizations to be more resilient, and let’s rebuild our country so that we can all live in a more perfect union. The key word here is union, which will require the intentional work of reuniting. If any group of people can lead this charge, it is architects. We have the privilege of working for people from every walk of life. Believe it or not, we are all public servants and we are called upon to protect everyone’s health, safety and welfare. This is our moment, NOMA. We must lead, serve, design, protect and unite our communities and our great nation.

Thank you in advance for all that you will do to create a better reality for those who you serve in your work. Many thanks to each and every one of you who have taken up the charge that I put out to be BRAVE on May 31, 2020. Thank you for actively working to Banish racism. Thank you for Reaching out to those who are grieving. Thank you for Advocating for the disinherited. Thank you for VOTING in every American election. Finally, and most importantly, thank you for Engaging each human you meet as you would want to be engaged. I believe that being BRAVE is the foundation for that better future we all hope for. Standing united on this foundation will make NOMA a beacon in our industry. Thank you for leading by example as the work of rebuilding ensues.

In Solidarity,

NOMA Acceptance Speech – Jason Pugh, NOMA, AIA, APA

October 17, 2020


Thank you… I am truly honored to be elected and serve as your next NOMA President, and humbled by the support, encouragement and mentorship I’ve received over the years leading up to this moment. 

I’ll try to keep my remarks brief this morning as I step into this new role as the 34th President of NOMA, but given both the amazing increase of our NOMA membership base, coupled with the record breaking attendance at this year’s virtual conference, I would imagine that there are still a few people in the virtual audience watching this morning who don’t know much about me. 

Jason Staff

For those whom I haven’t had the pleasure to meet, my name is Jason Pugh, I’m a licensed architect, certified urban planner and Associate at Gensler’s Chicago office.  I was born and raised in Denver CO., matriculated on through Architecture school, first at Howard University in Washington DC, followed by Columbia University in New York City, and I have been practicing now in Chicago, my second home, for over 13+ years.  I have been a part of this amazing family we call NOMA now for well over 16 years, and my journey has blessed me with opportunities to serve the organization in multiple capacities at both the student and professional level.  I first accepted the reins of leadership as an undergraduate student at Howard, where I helped resurrect a dormant NOMAS chapter by serving as President, and years later as a professional here in Chicago as the 2015-2016 President of the local I-NOMA chapter, which has grown to become one of the largest and most successful NOMA chapters in the country.  I have also served on the National Executive Board for the last 8+ years as the Midwest Regional University Liaison, a Regional VP, and this past year under Kimberly’s strong administration as her second in command, President Elect. 

Thank Yous

My journey and ascension into this position did not happen by my own foresight and accord, but rather through a fortunate series of continued blessings and encouragement by an amazing support network of mentors, family and friends.  I’d be remise if I didn’t take a quick moment to acknowledge a few of these important people and NOMA family.  

I’ll start with two members of my core NOMA family, who unfortunately are no longer with us… Our beloved Barbara Laurie, of which the student design competition was renamed in her honor, and our brother Kenneth Casey.  Barbara was one of my most influential professors at Howard University, she was the first black female licensed architect I ever met, and she was truly instrumental with drilling in the importance of getting licensed with all of her students.  Ken and I met later in life once I moved to Chicago.  He was an amazing steadfast mentor to countless young architects, served with me on the National board in a laundry list of positions, and was one of the main Chicago leaders who encouraged me to step up and serve, both as president of the local board, and on the National Board.  I truly hope both Barbara and Ken are looking down on me with pride, and I promise to do my absolute best within this role to honor their memory and legacy. 

The next group of mentors I’d like to acknowledge are active mentors and leaders within the organization.  Kevin Holland, Steven Lewis, Carlton Smith, Drake Dillard, Kathryn Prigmore, and Rod Henmi just to name a few… But I’d particularly like to thank our former National NOMA President Kathy Dixon, a fellow HU alumni, and one of the first professional NOMA members I met in DC who helped me revive the Howard Student NOMA chapter.  

Edward Dunson and Harry Robinson, two more amazingly influential professors at Howard who had faith and confidence in my potential, and were instrumental in my decision to pursue a graduate degree in Urban Design at Columbia University. 

Henry Hardnett for serving as one of my first professional mentors, and taking a strong interest in me as a young professional attending my very first NOMA conference, and proceeded to check in on me every year like clockwork to see if I had kept my word and completed my ARE exams. 

My firm, Gensler and both the FW and Chicago office leadership, who’s unwavering support over the years has allowed me to dedicate my time and energy to NOMA, but during and after 9-5 work hours. 

And last but not least, another former national NOMA President, Bryan Hudson, who single handedly pulled me onto the national Executive Board, and provided countless opportunities for me ascend within this amazing organization, which I’ve come to love and adore… Once again THANK YOU, to everyone I’ve mentioned, and a list of countless others, family and friends who’ve supported me in a million and one ways. 

Transition of Leadership

As I take this next step forward to serve as your next NOMA President, I’d like to first acknowledge the incredible work and accomplishments of my predecessor.  I think everyone within NOMA would agree that our current NOMA President Kimberly Dowdell has done an amazing job steering the ship and leading this great organization during one of the most difficult and unprecedented moments in the history of our country, and I acknowledge that despite her small stature, I have some tremendously large shoes to fill.  I’m looking forward to building on the strong foundation she has solidified during her administration, and expanding NOMA’s list of sponsors, resources, programming and allied partners to create more value in being a part of this organization. 

ALL in for NOMA

By now everyone should know the current 2019-2020 NOMA platform ALL in for NOMA. ALL is an acronym for ACCESS, LEADERSHIP AND LEGACY, and it was created by Kim and our current administration to promote more diversity and accessibility, cultivate new leaders amongst our ranks, and reinforce NOMA’s rich history.  The acronym ALL is also used as a sign of inclusivity, a signal to ALL, that we’re stronger together than divided, and we need help from ALL people in the industry to make an impact and move the needle forward during this pivotal moment. 

One of my main goals for the next two years as the next NOMA President is to build upon these very same ideologies, and the great work and progress Kimberly and the current National Board and staff have accomplished during her tremendously impactful administration. 


Over the last few months, everyone has anxiously asked me what my presidential platform will be, and where do I plan to steer this organization.  My response has been consistent and I’ve reassured inquiries that we most certainly are STILL ALL IN, and we’ll carry forward the initiatives and programs created by Kim over the last two years. 

Over the last year Kim and I have worked in lockstep to ensure the new programs created during her administration will continue on and be expanded in creative ways to meet the needs of our valued members and reinforce the value in being a part of NOMA.  We want to find ways to bolster the programs and initiatives launched by both the National Executive board and our local NOMA chapters to date, and ensure it dovetails with our expanded platform to Educate, Elevate, and Empower our membership base and chapters across the country: 

  • Expand & Rebrand PROJECT PIPELINE 

An overarching expansion and restructuring of NOMA’s PROJECT PIPELINE initiative to include all K-12, higher education and young professional programming to produce more licensed minority architects. 

  • Create an HBCU Advisory Committee 

Increase the support network and resources for our valued HBCU Architecture programs with oversight by a new HBCU Advisory Committee composed of faculty, alumni, and students equally from every school 

  • Track Metrics Towards Licensure 

Establish a formal system to track and measure our recruitment and retention strategies to ensure we’re marking quantifiable advancement towards increasing the number of minority architects. 

  • Increase the number of Licensed Minority Architects 

As a professional based organization, NOMA’s top priority will continue to focus on increasing the number of licensed minority architects and representation across firm leadership and ownership. 

  • Strengthen NOMA Chapters at the Local Level 

Increase the VALUE of our NOMA membership by strengthening the programming, engagements, and resources of professional and student chapters at the local level. 

  • Celebrate and Promote our NOMA Members 

Broader marketing and national spotlights to promote the accomplishments of our valued members and chapters while celebrating our rich history and stories. 

  • Create more Economic Opportunities 

Provide focused resources and growth opportunities for both NOMA’s legacy firms and young entrepreneurs and expand the number of MBE and WBE firms within the organization. 

  • Foster Strategic Partnerships 

Create more local and national partnerships with allied organization across the industry that align with NOMA’s mission, core values, and strategic plan. 

  • Advocate for a Just and Equitable Profession 

Create a formal advocacy committee at the local and national level to fight against racism and discriminatory practices and policies restricting the advancement of minority architects within the building and design industry. 

graphic slogans: ALL in for NOMA, Be Visible, Be B.R.A.V.E.

NOMA’s Public Statement Regarding Racial Injustice

May 31, 2020

The air in our nation is thick with a profound sense of grief and despair. Our collective air is so very thick that it’s literally hard to breathe. We struggle to grasp for air as we all navigate a global pandemic coupled with the deadly and pervasive virus called racism that has plagued America for over four centuries.

As the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), we are calling on our members and our broader professional community to condemn racism and take an active role in eliminating the racial biases that account for a myriad of social, economic, and health disparities, and most importantly, result in the loss of human lives – Black lives. As architects, we are professionally responsible for protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public. The tragic execution of Black Americans at the hands of people infected by racism has plagued our nation for generations.

On this day 99 years ago, the racially motivated burning of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma claimed the lives of over 300 Black residents who were thriving independently in their own community. Just this week, our nation is grappling with the senseless murder of George Floyd, and all of the countless names of Black men and women who have recently lost their lives as a result of hatred, sparked by the color of their skin.

Image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and allies marching for civil rights

As architects, how can we protect the health, safety and welfare of the public if our country is not properly including Black Americans as full members of our society? Black Americans and other people of color have been subjected to injustice and inequality for far too long. NOMA was founded in Detroit by twelve Black architects in 1971 on the heels of one of the most racially challenging eras in American history. Born out of the Civil Rights Movement, NOMA was formed for the purpose of minimizing the effect of racism on our profession. Today, NOMA must call for more. As an organization, we must BE more.

Over NOMA’s five decades of existence, we have borne witness to the seemingly endless tragedies perpetrated against Black Americans and people representing other communities of color. After careful consideration, NOMA has determined that this moment is ripe for us to take a far stronger stance. We have been advocating for justice throughout our history and now is the time to clearly articulate what matters to us the most.


Our existing mission is to champion diversity within the design professions by promoting the excellence, community engagement, and professional development of our members. While these issues remain important to us, we acknowledge that those words feel hollow in times such as this. Unfortunately, these trying times of racial unrest occur too frequently. While the recalibration of our mission has been in the works for quite some time, our national board has voted to enact NOMA’s new mission statement, effective immediately:

NOMA’s mission, rooted in a rich legacy of activism, is to empower our local chapters and membership to foster justice and equity in communities of color through outreach, community advocacy, professional development and design excellence.

To be clear, there is power in words and we did not simply rush to react to the current state of affairs. We have been in the process of adopting a new strategic plan for the past several months. In the near future, we will engage our local chapters to establish a revised set of aims and objectives to support our updated mission. NOMA’s mission had not changed in over a decade, and we are doing so today in order to better equip our members to be the change that we seek to design for our society. We are taking a stand, and we hope that you will stand with us.

With just over half a year left of my two year term as NOMA’s president, I am asking everyone to dig deep and help us battle the circumstances that not only result in racially motivated violence against people of color, but also prevent people of color from entering into and thriving in the profession of architecture. As a professional organization, our primary focus should be on supporting and serving our members. Right now, our members are hurting. This is traumatic. NOMA is here to address this pain in the best ways we know how. Before we can confidently advocate for greater economic opportunities for architects of color, we need to ensure that those very people are first able to breathe.

It so happens that my NOMA presidential platform for 2019-2020 is ALL in for NOMA. ALL is an acronym to promote diverse Access, Leadership and Legacy in the context of the profession of architecture. The other reason for using the word ALL is to signal that this is an effort that we need ALL people to join in. Broadly speaking, we should ALL be struggling to make sense of how our fellow humans are being mistreated. I encourage our White members and allies to take the lead in dismantling racism whenever you see it emerge.


We must all leverage our positions of privilege to help our most vulnerable citizens, neighbors and colleagues strive for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I urge you to consider what’s happening right now as an American problem that we must all face together. Can we collectively be ALL in for NOMA? More importantly, can we all be BRAVE, as in committing ourselves to the list of items below for which BRAVE is an acronym?

B.R.A.V.E - banish, reach, advocate, vote & engage

If we can promote these basic ideas in our firms, our organizations and in our communities, our nation will be better for it. Perhaps then, we can all breathe a little bit easier. Only then, can we target our energy and creativity towards designing a better world for all.

In Solidarity,

Kimberly Dowdell
2019-2020 NOMA National President

Bevisible2020 Allin Sm2