Five Local Professionals and Students Awarded First Round of MAPS Scholarship

By Robert Tuñón, AIA, NOMA Posted on April 1, 2022

In its inaugural year, the Minority Architects of Pittsburgh Scholarship (MAPS) was awarded to five local professionals and students.  As of April 1st, MAPS launched its second round of the scholarship with an application submission deadline of May 3rd. MAPS is specifically for minority architects, architecture students, and high school students interested in pursuing a career in Architecture. To the Pittsburgh architecture community, we ask that you consider the following actions to support our work:

 

 

 

Read more about the 2021 scholarship recipients below!

 

The inaugural round of scholarships were awarded for the Minority Architects of Pittsburgh Scholarship (MAPS) to five local professionals and students:

  • Lydia Randall, fourth-year B. Arch. student at Carnegie Mellon University
  • Do Mihn Khoi, first-year B. Arch. student at Carnegie Mellon University
  • Monico Suice Williams, second-year BS. Arch. student at University of Pittsburgh
  • Oyuki Sulu, Project Designer at Shelton Design
  • Javier Garcia, Project Manager / BIM Manager at Graves Design Group

After being notified of selection, MAPS awardee Lydia Randall voiced that “being a minority in architecture school can often feel lonely. This award affirms that there is a community in Pittsburgh’s architecture profession that wants to support me and other students as we make our way through school and beyond.” Lydia is also the current President of CMU’S NOMAS, the student chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students.

To understand the financial challenge for students, MAPS awardee Do Minh Khoi shared that international students are often not eligible for financial aid or scholarships. Khoi Do added that university costs “can put a large strain on family finances. Being a recipient means that I am able to help my parents with this scholarship award, though just a small amount, and prove to them and to myself that I am making their investment worth it.”

In the first round of scholarships, financial awards ranged from $235 to $750 and totaled $2,050. Funding for the first scholarship distribution came entirely from donations by individuals. MAPS seeks to dramatically increase the amount distributed each biannual round and to do so, is requesting financial support from businesses, firms, nonprofits, and foundations to help relieve the financial burden on minority architects and students.

MAPS launched in the fall of 2021 as a partnership initiative of NOMA Pittsburgh, AIA Pittsburgh, and the Pittsburgh Architecture Foundation and is administered by a team of six local professionals. Ashley Cox, a founding member of MAPS, reflected that the application review process “was a watershed moment for the entire team. Many of us in the City can attest to the value of creating a more diverse and inclusive design profession, but we have created another avenue where we could tangibly contribute to our applicants’ journey. Finding more ways to help people in such a tangible and tactile way has deepened my commitment to the cause and ignited a fire amongst our team.” Ashley is also a certified planner at evolveEA and a NOMA Pittsburgh member.

MAPS is also available to professionals seeking to advance their career – whether that is through the pursuit of licensure, educational opportunities, or expansion of credentials. MAPS awardee Oyuki Sulu is using the scholarship award to pay for an Architectural Registration Examination. To complete the licensure process through NCARB, it can cost thousands of dollars – a huge barrier for any emerging professional, but particularly acute for minority and international architects. Oyuki shared that receiving the MAPS Scholarship means that she is “a step closer. A step closer to becoming an architect, a step closer to becoming registered in two countries, a step closer to increasing the number of minority architects, a step closer to reaching a goal I have always dreamed about.” Oyuki serves the emerging professional community as an active committee member of AIA Pittsburgh’s Young Architects Forum.

For the MAPS Team, the biggest challenge in the inaugural round came from attempts to award financial scholarships to high school students who have not selected a program. To uncover the underlying issues, MAPS met with students and their guardians as well as program providers to find individualized pathways into the profession. Nickie Cheung, a MAPS founder and team member, reflected that “a path to architecture is not always clear for high school students. Despite the number of programs that are offered locally and nationally, students and their guardians struggled to identify the right fit for their level of interest and the complexity of their lives. The search for a pathway is complicated when there is an application process or portfolio review process – unlike many other educational or STEM camps where one can just sign up. When trying to decide if the architecture field is the right path for them, students and guardians are navigating the high financial costs of summer architecture programs as well as the issues of time commitment and transportation.” For those on this search, one new program that is opening doors for high school students with limited financial means is University of Pittsburgh’s Experiencing Architecture, led by local architect Sara Pettit. 

The MAPS Team would like to extend a special thanks to our partners NOMA Pittsburgh (specifically Victoria Acevedo and Michael Larche), AIA Pittsburgh (specifically Michelle Fanzo and Brigid Moser), and Pittsburgh Architecture Foundation (specifically Gwen Dakis, Amy Misencik, and Dan Rothschild) who have been instrumental partners in supporting MAPS. We would also like to recognize donors from the first round: Robert & Megan Tuñón, Robyn & John Engel, Jen Bee, John Ryan, Charles Coltharp, and Ashley Cox.

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