Since 2009, data assessing diversity and architectural education have shown improvements in terms of gender and ethnicity. In 2016, the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) reported that there is a 54/46 percent male/female split across all accredited professional programs, a 1 percent increase in female students from the previous academic year and a 5 percent increase since 2009. However, the longitudinal data on ethnicity over the same time period show little to no growth of African-American and Latino populations, who are historically underrepresented in the profession. On the other hand, the percentage of international students has skyrocketed, often creating a multicultural environment.
While today’s classrooms look drastically different than those of the 1960s and ’70s, room for improvement still exists. For this reason, the 2017–18 Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) Education Committee has been tasked with the Diversity and Equity Initiative, which aims to increase diversity of both faculty and student bodies. This diversity is directly connected to the diversity found in the profession. Both inside and outside the committee, faculty members recognize that bringing a diverse student population to architectural education is not sustainable unless students are supported, particularly at the undergraduate level.
The accompanying graphics highlight students entering the architecture pipeline from primary and secondary schools. It calls attention to future growth by regionally identifying the percentage of minority students and highlighting the relationship to the average percentage of bachelor of architecture (B.Arch.) candidates who graduate on time. “On-time graduation” is a commonly used measure of student academic success, indicating that students are able to complete the prescribed curriculum. For college students, this metric implies not only academic but emotional and physical support as students begin to solidify their societal identities.
Schools in the Gulf States and West regions reported the lowest average on-time graduation rates, and the highest percentage of minority students: 52 percent and 59 percent, respectively. Conversely, schools in the East Central region had the lowest percentage of minority students (33 percent) but one of the most promising average on-time graduation rates.
If the profession is expected to change in ways that are increasingly equitable and diverse, it is imperative that both the profession and the academy investigate ways to support a diverse student body. One of the most successful forms of support is mentorship. The “2016 Equity in Architecture Survey” by AIA San Francisco’s Equity by Design committee shows the significance of mentorship and sponsorship in the profession. The percentage of minority children in the six regions illustrated above, and the disparity of the on-time graduation rates, illuminate the opportunities for intervention.