Kimberly Dowdell Speaks to GSD Graduates at Class Day 2023

A red-and-white logo for the Class Day speaker event

A recording of this event is available with audio description.

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The Harvard Graduate School of Design’s 2023 Class Day Awards Ceremony and Address will take place from 3:30 pm–5:00 pm on Wednesday, May 24, in the Gund Hall Backyard.

Kimberly Dowdell Portrait
Photo credit: Anthony Tahlier.

The GSD has named Kimberly Dowdell as its 2023 Class Day speaker. Dowdell is a licensed architect and frequent speaker on the topics of architecture, diversity, sustainability, and the future of cities. In her 2019–2020 term as National President of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), she worked closely with her board of directors and staff to increase opportunities for women and people of color to gain more equitable access to the building professions. She also more than doubled the organization’s membership and significantly raised NOMA’s profile during her two-year presidency.

Dowdell’s career aspirations are rooted in her upbringing in Detroit, where she was initially driven to utilize architecture as a tool to revitalize cities. She earned her Bachelor of Architecture at Cornell University and her Master of Public Administration at Harvard University. Her professional experience has spanned from architecture to government and teaching to real estate development. Dowdell is currently a principal in the Chicago studio of HOK, a leading global design firm. She co-founded the SEED Network in 2005 and has been a LEED accredited professional since 2007. In 2020, Dowdell was recognized as an American Institute of Architects (AIA) Young Architect of the Year awardee as well as an Architectural Record Women in Architecture award recipient. Dowdell also was recognized by Crain’s Detroit Business and Crain’s Chicago Business as a 40 Under 40 honoree in 2018 and 2020, respectively. In 2021, she was awarded the Cranbrook Kingswood Distinguished Alumni Award. In 2022, Dowdell was elected to the Cornell University Board of Trustees as well as to the AIA National Board of Directors as 2023 President-Elect.

In 2024, Dowdell will serve as the 100th National President of the AIA and the first Black woman to hold this position in the organization’s history. Dowdell’s overarching mission is to improve people’s lives, by design.

Please visit the GSD’s Commencement page for more information about Class Day and Commencement week activities. You may also wish to view the university-wide Commencement site.

Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the Public Programs Office at (617) 496-2414 or [email protected].