Aria Griffin Receives Inaugural Phil Freelon Fellowship

Aria Griffin (MArch ’21) (center), is the first recipient of the Phil Freelon Fellowship, established last year to expand academic opportunities for African American and other under-represented students of design. Left: Perkins+Will CEO and Grounded Visionaries campaign Co-Chair Phil Harrison (AB ’86, MArch ’93). Right: Phil Freelon (LF '90). Photo credit: Jason Thornton.

First year Master in Architecture candidate Aria Griffin has been selected as the Harvard University Graduate School of Design’s inaugural Phil Freelon Fellow. The news was announced in a joint press release from the GSD, Perkins+Will, and Phil Freelon (LF ’90), design director of Perkins+Will’s North Carolina practice.

“The support from Mr. Freelon and Perkins+Will is absolutely incredible, and I am so humbled and honored by this fellowship,” Griffin said. “It enables me to pursue something that I love so much, and propels me in a direction to do the best work I can.”

A Los Angeles native, Griffin began her GSD studies in September 2017. She previously earned a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where she also minored in African and African American studies.

“We are delighted to award this fellowship for the first time to such a talented, driven, and promising designer as Aria,” said Freelon, who has been an active member of the GSD community since serving as a Loeb Fellow from 1989-1990. “Aria exemplifies the academic excellence and opportunity we were hoping to advance at the GSD when we established the fellowship. We look forward to seeing her grow academically and professionally in the years to come.”

Established in 2016, the Phil Freelon Fellowship Fund seeks to expand academic opportunities for African American and other under-represented students of design.

“Phil Freelon is a passionate advocate for equity and diversity in the design sphere. These values are deeply supported by and ingrained in the GSD,” says Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean and Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design. “The GSD is thankful for the generosity of Perkins+Will and Phil Freelon in establishing this Fellowship and enabling talented, creative top design students like Aria Griffin to attend the GSD.”

Last October Griffin sat down with Freelon, as well as Perkins+Will CEO Phil Harrison (AB ’86, MArch ’93), during a GSD event on diversity in the design field hosted by Perkins+Will. The trio talked about the new Fellowship, as well as the value diversity brings to design education.