Alumni launch campaign aimed at assisting underrepresented architecture students

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Architecture Alumni Group, an official Affiliate Program Group chartered by the Arts and Architecture Alumni Society, has launched a new campaign to raise funds that will assist students with demonstrated financial need in covering the costs of studio materials during the first year of studies in the five-year professional Bachelor of Architecture program at Penn State.

The Architecture Alumni Material Resource Fund is the result of the group’s efforts to increase awareness and combat the systemic social and racial injustices that are present in both architecture education and the professional practice of the built environment.

“The high cost of an architectural education — not just tuition, but the necessary equipment, materials, printing costs, technology and more — is often a shock and a barrier for those just entering, or even contemplating entering, the profession,” said Melanie Ray, an associate at Hord Coplan Macht and a 2015 Penn State architecture alumna. “These burdens affect many students but fall hardest on those who are financially disadvantaged due to generations of systemic oppression.”

The goal of the campaign is “to make a small but significant impact at the start of a student’s architectural education. By defraying a portion of the cost for architecture studio materials and supplies for those first-year students with the least financial support, we can help lift up disadvantaged students from communities underrepresented in the field, keeping them on the path.”

According to the summary through Penn State’s community funding platform, “…completing architectural education and training continues to be a challenge for the most underrepresented people in our profession. This has led to a negative cycle, wherein those who most need practical support, as well as guidance and mentorship, are the least likely to find it.”

These burdens affect many students but fall hardest on those who are financially disadvantaged due to generations of systemic oppression.” — Melanie Ray

The cost of out-of-pocket material and supply expenses for first-year architecture students is around $600. With a fundraising goal of $18,600, the group hopes to fund these material costs for architecture students with demonstrated financial need which will help to maintain a diverse student body in the architecture program.

“This is an ambitious goal, but we are hoping to use the current momentum for change to make an immediate and practical impact,” said Matthew Graham, a project architect with Cannon Design who is the secretary-treasurer of the Penn State Architecture Alumni Group and a 2012 alumnus. “If we exceed this initial goal, we hope to contribute the surplus money toward a general materials resource fund, which will be available to offset material costs for students with demonstrated financial need now and in the future.

The campaign is the result the recently established Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Task Force within the Architecture Alumni group, which has been formed to identify areas in which alumni can directly improve diversity, inclusion and equity in the B.Arch. program. The task force is broken into three groups that are tasked with exploring pro-equity practices related to architecture student affordability, reaching underrepresented students including improving K-12 relationships with diverse high school populations and improving studio culture.

“Building an exceptional professional program in architecture that educates future leaders to make a difference in the profession relies on a close working relationship with alumni,” said Patricia Kucker, director of the Stuckeman School and a Penn State architecture alumna. “We are grateful for the outstanding and timely efforts of the architecture alumni group that are focused on removing barriers to student success.”

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