Dean's Diveristy initiative 

Since its founding, the Graduate School of Design has been a crossroads of learning and intellectual debate. Today, the school is committed to building on that legacy of cultural diversity, firm in the conviction that a multiplicity of voices and viewpoints among students, staff, and faculty is essential to our mission of advancing the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning and design.” - Dean Mohsen Mostafavi

2011 Project Link
In the fall of 2008, Mohsen Mostafavi began his first full year as Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design.  One of his first priorities was to establish the Dean’s Diversity Initiative. Its goal is to increase the number of underrepresented minorities within the GSD faculty, staff, and student body. Concerned about the low numbers of African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans at the GSD and in the design professions, the Dean has established a committee of faculty, students, staff, and alumni to look at the issue and make recommendations.


Laura Snowdon, Dean of Students (Co-Chair)
Jim Stockard, Director of the Loeb Fellowship Program, Lecturer in Housing Studies (Co-Chair)
John Aslanian, Assistant Director of Student Life and Recruitment
Lauren Baccus, Human Resources Co-Director
Sara Wilkinson, Director of Human Resources
Anita Berrizbeitia, MLA Program Director, Professor of Landscape Architecture
Shantel Blakely, Events Coordinator
Felipe Correa, MAUD/MLAUD Program Director, Associate Professor of Urban Design
Tracie Curry, MLA '13
Ann Forsyth, MUP Program Director, Professor of Urban Planning
Theresa Lund, Director of Administration, Dean's Office
Mark Mulligan, MArch Program Director, Adjunct Associate Professor of Architecture
Erika Naginski, Associate Professor of Architecture
Geri Nederhoff, Co-Director of Admissions and Diversity Recruitment Manager
Ben Prosky, Assistant Dean for Internal and External Communications
Carlos Reyes, Student Services Coordinator
Melinda Starmer, Director of Faculty Planning

Advisory Group

Derek Ham, PhD at MIT; GSD Alumni Council; Alumnus, MArch II 2003
David Lee, FAIA, Partner, Stull and Lee, former Adjunct Professor at the GSD
Steve Lewis, Principal, Parsons Corp.; GSD Loeb Fellow 2006-07
Liz Ogbu, Fellow at IDEO.org; Alumna, MArch I, 2004
Michaele Pride, Assoc. Professor and Associate Dean, School of Architecture and Planning, University of New Mexico; Alumna, MAUD 2001

Greater Boston teens have been getting a taste of architecture and design in a small but important program at the GSD. Project Link was started by alums Jonathan Evans and Andy Lantz as a way to nurture more minority participation in the design field by immersing high school students in a 4-week program at the GSD. But the GSD students who lead the teams have reaped benefits as well.

Read “Lessons In Boldness” by Jennifer Doody in the Harvard Gazette.

This summer, the GSD participated in the Graduate Horizons Program, sponsored by the Harvard Native American Program (HUNAP). Designed to assist high-achieving Native American students in their preparation for graduate study, over 90 students participated from Native communities across North America. Student interest in robotics, art in the public domain, ecology and urbanism, and earthen structures highlighted the variety of ways in which the research, coursework, and exhibitions of the GSD continue to attract students to design that may have not previously considered the field.

This past Spring, the GSD hosted the Harambe Bretton Woods Symposium. Over 40 African undergraduate and graduate students focusing on social entrepreneurship convened to consider the impact of design on their communities and its effect on opportunities for social change in Africa. Anna Heringer (Loeb '12) and David Saladik (MArch '10) led a discussion based on their respective work that highlighted the importance of community involvement in the design process, as well as the beauty and effectiveness of local materials.

The Dean's Diversity Initiative hosted African architect Diebedo Francis Kere for a lecture and reception earlier this November. You can read about the event in the Harvard Gazette.

Within the first year of its inception, the DDI met several times and developed short and long range goals. Here are some of the accomplishments:

  • Recruitment of Prospective Students
    One of the most pressing concerns is the expansion of African American, Hispanic and Native American enrollments in the student body. Overall applicant pool increased by 32% this past spring with a 43% increase in underrepresented minorities.
  • Faculty Recruitment
    Compiled a list of potential women and minority candidates for faculty appointments, lectures and juries. DDI submitted a formal Faculty Recruitment proposal to the Dean. Architecture department appointed two African American instructors from said list, resulting in an increase in minority representation on juries.
  • Max Bond, Multiculturalism, and Social Equity in the Built Environment - 2009 co-sponsored with the Office of Alumni Relations
    The GSD honored Max Bond (MArch '58) Partner at Davis Brody Bond Aedas, who passed away in February. Panel featured practitioners who built on the 2008 FuturePresent symposium which addressed the relationship between marginalized cultural environments, schools of design and a call for a renewed leadership and sense of purpose within the profession.

NOMA (National Organization of Minority Architects) and the GSD
Every year the GSD sends four students and one faculty member to the annual NOMA Conference.

The 2011 NOMA Conference, held in Atlanta, Georgia, featured a graduate school panel discussion among ten schools of architecture.  Mack Scogin represented the GSD and provided portfolio critique to students at the portfolio review session that followed.  Contacts were made with Atlanta area organizations that have talented students of color who could be good candidates for the GSD's summer Career Discovery Program.

In October of 2010, the conference was held in Boston and brought over 400 participants to the event where the GSD was a platinum sponsor. The School hosted some of the main conference events in Gund Hall.  Sponsored by the GSD's Loeb Fellowship program and the Boston Society of Architects, the early bird event was a lecture by David Adjaye and Phil Freelon on their design of the African American Museum in Washington, DC. Geri Nederhoff, GSD Co-Director of Admissions and Minority Recruitment Manager,  was part of the conference planning committee and organized the conference’s Host Chapter Party held at the GSD.

The event included a conversation with Donald Stull and David Lee, partners in the firm Stull and Lee. Their conversation was moderated by Richard Dozier of Tuskegee University.  Donald and David were also honored with a lifetime achievement award from NOMA presented by NOMA president, Steven Lewis. Five GSD workshops were also offered and included the following faculty:  Maryann Thompson, Spiro Pollalis, Christoph Reinhart, Paul Cote, Alex Krieger, Scott Cohen, Sanford Kwinter, and Gareth Doherty.

IDEA Council
In November 2010, Harvard's President Faust formed the IDEA Council (Inclusion, Diversity, Excellence, Advisory) to advise her on diversity-related issues across the University.  On the council the GSD is represented by its diversity recruitment manager.  The Council of Deans charged this committee with organizing the first "One Harvard" event which welcomed admitted students of color in the spring of 2011 and followed up with a University wide event celebrating diversity at Harvard in the fall.  Going forward these events will be held annually.

Diversity Summit - 2009
Invitees included distinguished professionals and academics who know the GSD and have been active in leading change in the design profession and academia. Topics included current status of diversity at the GSD, critiquing the GSD's plans to date and seeking new strategies.

DDI Discussion with Alumni at Alumni Weekend - 2009
Topics included the GSD’s efforts to boost diversity among faculty and students. Initiative members presented an overview of the Dean’s Diversity Summit held in the spring. Student initiatives such as Project Link and Design Initiative for Youth were highlighted.


The GSD’s focus has been to expand enrollments of underrepresented minority students and also develop programs to expose middle and high school students to the design fields in an effort to increase the number of minority students applying to design schools and then practicing in the field or teaching in academia.

Programs to Promote Diversity in Design:

Project Link


2011 Project LinkPROJECT LINK was created, planned and initiated by graduate students in the fields of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning at Harvard's Graduate School of Design.  It is a student run and university funded opportunity to reach out to Boston communities to introduce opportunities within the design field for underprivileged and talented high school students.  

PROJECT LINK is an intensive four week Architecture and Design studio that seeks to immerse students into the world of design.  During the summer program, students learn architectural drafting, model-making and representation techniques across the disciplines of architecture, urban design, industrial design and graphic design.  PROJECT LINK puts students on track for exploring these ideas at the collegiate level by exposing them to the design field and instilling in them some fundamental design principles that encourage them to think critically about their surroundings.

In its fourth year, PROJECT LINK has grown to 16 students from nine different Boston area High Schools. The students ranged in age and background, which made for a diverse group that formed an instant bond. They participated in studio projects, afternoon freestyles, field trips, computer workshops and lectures. Their work will be displayed on the student exhibition wall in the Gund lobby and was documented to help them start compiling a portfolio. This summer we were also proud to have a student from our first summer, Jason Nam, who is now in his second year of the architecture program at Virginia Tech, come back and volunteer as a TA for the class.

PROJECT LINK was developed as a way to tackle the lack of underrepresented minorities in the architecture field. The simple goal is to introduce the possibilities of design and to instill a passion for design in local communities. In this way, students learn that they have agency over their environments no matter what field they choose to pursue.


Design Initiative for Youth (DIY)Fall 2011 DIY

Since 2004, volunteer students at the GSD have partnered with Citizens Schools, a Middle School after-school program, to carry out an apprenticeship program. This program, Design Initiative for Youth (DIY), strives to introduce basic design concepts and critical thinking skills to students as a solution and innovation oriented approach to understanding the world. It has succeeded in giving middle school students a sense of agency in the built environment and how design can be a viable career option to shape their communities. The program also allows the GSD to strengthen ties to the community it inhabits, enabling the academic and social realms to positively impact one another.

Career Discovery Program

Underrepresented minority students are encouraged to apply to our intensive, six-week, summer Career Discovery Program.  By immersing themselves in our studio-based program, they are exposed to architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning and design.  They also become familiar with the GSD and the Harvard University campus.  Need-based financial aid is available.

In the fall of 2006, GSD students taught a design apprenticeship for Citizen Schools' 8th Grade Academy and since then have been working with a group of 10-12 8th grade students every semester to teach them basic concepts about design. At the end of each semester, students showcase their new knowledge in a final project called "WOW." The hope is to get the students excited about potential futures in design, possibly leading to their participation in Career Discovery once they're in high school or even pursuing a design education in college. 

PAST Conferences and Symposia

FuturePresent Symposium

A symposium and initiative to increase diversity in the design professions.

Its mission

The FuturePresent symposium and initiative mission was to amplify discussion of the interrelationship between marginalized cultural environments, (schools of) architecture, and renewed leadership of minority architects. FuturePresent sought to energize a network of students, professionals and academics to think critically across the design disciplines and to proactively and in collaboration work to increase diversity within landscape/architecture, urban planning and design.
Our Communities » Too often design discourse foregrounds a generic “urban” over the more political “community” or “neighborhood,” and ignores the significance of culturally-loaded territories linked to terminology such as “Our.” Can we make design more relevant to marginalized communities through advocacy and design?
FuturePresent » What can today’s new generation of young designers do now to increase underrepresented minority presence in academia and practice?

Systems for Inclusion 8

The GSD, in association with Design Corps, hosted the eighth offering of the annual Structures for Inclusion (SFI) conference series. Entitled “Systems for Inclusion,” SFI8 explores the interface of design and systemic social action: Can design(ers) challenge globally networked systems of exclusivity and inequality? What are the relationships between design and political power, economic and ecological sustainability, justice and community?

Targeted at students and young professionals who want to move beyond a purely aesthetic discussion--who see landscape/architecture and urban planning/design as an integrative and interconnected project--the conference's goal was to jumpstart a new conversation about the social dimensions of the natural and built environments.

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, internationally acclaimed for his humanitarian efforts and his innovative use of building materials, was the keynote speaker. First in the world to construct a building out of recycled paper, Ban built the “Community Dome,” a meeting place for victims of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan. His “Paper Log Houses” provided temporary shelter for the earthquake victims. Through his material research into the structural capacity of organic materials, such as paper tubes, bamboo and wood, Ban has created a new vocabulary for contemporary architecture based in environmental and social concerns.

Progress in Process Series: Women in Design (WiD)

Currently, only 13.3 percent of the members of the American Institute of Architects are women, a mere 1.2 percent increase from 1975, while approximately half of architecture students are female. The Progress in Process Series, organized by the GSD student group Women in Design, presented three panel discussions that addressed this perpetual disparity, which is generated in part by a lack of recognition of previous generations of female designers. By spotlighting the recent work of women in design fields, the symposium aimed to embolden young designers to pursue long-term careers in the design fields and to progress toward a more diverse professional population. Sessions focused on how international practice is shaping spaces that effect change for women worldwide and on the issues of gender roles and different types of professional partnerships within design practice.

Student Organizations

Architecture for Humanity Boston GSD

AfHBGSD is a subset of Architecture for Humanity Boston. AfHB is dedicated to innovations in architectural and design solutions to humanitarian crises and to provide design services to communities in need. AfHB works not only within the Boston area, but according to our membership's interest, in as many places from New Orleans to Pakistan.

Asia GSD

Founded in 1994, Asia GSD is a student organization at the Harvard Design School for students interested in the design issues of the Asia Pacific region. Its mission is to promote awareness of architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and design, and related disciplines in visual and design arts within an Asian context and its implications in a broad regional framework. Asia GSD is committed to fostering dialogues on professional and scholarly concerns between students, academics and professionals around the word.

China GSD

China GSD seeks to act as a resource for those interested in topics on China, and to foster more communications among Chinese designers all around the world.

Korea GSD

With a focus on architectural, cultural, and political issues, Korea GSD hopes to introduce Koreans and Americans to different needs and conditions of both nations. Working closely with the Harvard Korean Society, we work to create academic and professional relationships with the Far East.

Latin GSD

The Latin GSD pursues the individualization of the interest in Latin America as a field of thought, critique and design in the Harvard community. Its main objectives are to open a permanent space of study and exchange towards the production and discussion of Architecture, Landscape Urban Design and Planning in Latin America and to strengthen the relationship between professors, students and intellectuals. It is also in our goal to sustain subjects of cultural diversity as a search for integration, constantly aiming towards an objective representation of the ideas and regions in its means of action.

Club Medina

Club MEDINA is a student organization at the Harvard Graduate School of Design for students interested in design issues in the larger Middle Eastern Region. Its aim is to provide a better understanding of the cultures and dynamics of the region and to promote dialogue and links between the academic and professional milieu. With members representing countries as diverse as Morocco, Israel, Kuwait, Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Egypt, Japan, Cyprus, Iran, Palestine, and the United States, Club Medina investigates architectural and urban issues in the light of the critical political and economical regional developments. Founded in October 2001, Club Medina was initiated with a lecture by Iranian-American architect Nader Tehrani.


NOMAds (National Organization of Minority Architecture and Design Students) is the GSD student chapter of the National Organization for Minority Architects (NOMA).  NOMAds aimes to create a support network for minority students both within the GSD and the Boston area.  Our mission is to champion diversity amongst design professionals by promoting excellence, community engagement and professional development of its members.

Out Design

Out Design is an association for students of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community and students interested in issues related to the LGBTQ community. We host social events and mixers with other Harvard LGBTQ graduate student groups (such as the KSG, HLS, and HBS) and similar groups at MIT, as well as with GSD alumni. We provide an email forum for the exchange of information among members regarding political issues, community events, and informal social gatherings. Our growing membership is committed to expanding the activities and visibility of OutDesign.

SOCA (Social Change and Activism)

As a group of concerned students who view social responsibility as central to our education and our profession, SoCA seeks - through a coupled advocacy and activism - to reground design and planning in the social issues of today's global reality.

Women in Design (WiD)

Women in Design (WiD) works to increase the visibility of practicing women designers and to further incorporate their experiences into our education at the Graduate School of Design (GSD) at Harvard University. WiD offers a supportive network and a critical forum in which students from all departments of the school — Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning and Design—discuss topics ranging from studying at the GSD to operating in the professional environment. Other activities, including conversations with faculty and visiting practitioners, aim at connecting current students to practicing designers while simultaneously addressing some of the fundamental issues students face when they transition into the professional world. Recently WiD hosted larger-scale symposia on issues facing women in the design fields today.

About: Letter from the Dean: Dean's Diversity Initiative

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