Image courtesy of NOMAS
By Schola Eburuoh
Driven by the need to uplift the voices of minority design students, and increased representation within design studios, classes and all learning environments, the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS) is back at Catholic University to do just this.
With the mission to “champion diversity within the design professions,” this student-led organization aims at providing an opportunity for minority students to be leaders within Catholic University’s School of Architecture and Planning.
NOMAS is not completely new to the School of Architecture and Planning. A NOMAS Student Chapter was an active part of the school until about six years ago. Bringing NOMAS back to CUArch began by a chance encounter with the National Organization. President of CUArch NOMAS, Schola Eburuoh, was invited by a family friend to attend the National Organization of Minority Architects Conference in October of 2019 in Brooklyn, New York. The conference highlighted student projects and culminated in an award ceremony, with a number of well known professionals sharing their stories and encouraging students to change the demographics of the industry through their hard work in the studio spaces. Having the ability to experience the conference, network with professionals, and be submerged in fellowship with like-minded peers, Schola began to garner student interest to begin the chapter here at Catholic. In light of the current social climate and the heightened demand for support of underrepresented groups, the start of NOMAS at Catholic University this Fall was providential.
What makes the NOMAS Chapter at Catholic University unique is that it aligns so well with the University’s commitment to service and excellence in teaching. In order to encourage and give underrepresented groups the opportunity to thrive within the profession of architecture, CUArch NOMAS uses its social media platforms to engage with members. Themes such a #MotivationalMondays and #FemaleFridays allow NOMAS to share knowledge and encourage students to learn from one another. They highlight the lives of architects and designers whose accomplishments otherwise may have never been taught or well researched due to their status in the eyes of society.
The need to diversify the design field and lift up the voices of minorities drives the leadership team. Advisor CJ Howard, Secretary Francesca Moschella, Vice President Isabelle Cassidy, as well as President Schola Eburuoh are each committed to advancing the dialogue between the architectural world and the larger community. The Student Chapter has done this so far through one of three campus-wide sketching competitions. The competition encouraged all students at Catholic to sketch a building located in Washington, DC and share it with NOMAS through social media or by email for a chance to win a $25 Amazon Giftcard. The team is also excited to begin their speaker series entitled “Social Justice Chats,” where professors from the School of Architecture and Planning are invited to speak about the impact of social justice in their own architectural projects or professional experiences. In this way, the NOMAS provides a forum for sharing ideas and different views related to issues within the community.
NOMAS is particularly dedicated to the advancement of learning. Today, women make up approximately 36% of licensed architects; less than one in five architects identify as racial or ethnic minorities; and there are less than 500 African American women architects, which equates to approximately .3% of all practicing architects.
These numbers are staggering and parallel the academic environments of the design field as well. NOMAS at Catholic University seeks to mend these disparities by first recognizing them. Understanding these statistics and then diving into the parameters which keep representation low are how the National Organization seeks to champion diversity. Through Catholic University’s NOMAS Chapter and the various educational events and opportunities, this is accomplished.
Such initiatives, coinciding with a growing membership, ensure that the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students remains at Catholic University to serve the greater community and remain a part of the School of Architecture and Planning until representation is seen and appreciated throughout the design profession.
To see NOMAS’ informational posts feel free to follow @CUArch_NOMAS on Instagram.