Located in the vibrant city of Los Angeles, the USC School of Architecture has for over 100 years engaged in fundamental questions regarding the metropolis – examining it through both investigations of form as well as concept. Many of our alumni over those years have demonstrated unprecedented levels of innovation, with their work simultaneously expanding the field and meeting the ever-evolving needs of the region. Our mission has long been socially minded, with many of our faculty and alumni producing globally recognized solutions in affordable housing to new sustainable infrastructure. Yet, despite our progressive legacy, we do not yet adequately represent the rich world our profession is meant to serve – neither in our current faculty and student demographics, nor in the breadth of our curriculum. This is a universal conundrum facing every school of architecture in the United States today.
In order to close this gap, the USC School of Architecture has created a comprehensive Five-Year Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan, coordinating numerous new initiatives meant to further improve not only any quantitative levels of diversity in the school but also the qualitative or culture climate issues within the school as well. This plan is the result of a two-year conversation with the various constituencies that make up our community. Its writing was guided by the school’s Diversity, Inclusion and Admissions Committee. It consists of 10 interconnected goals.
The first five goals are directly related to specific community members:
1. Build a sustainable D&I administrative structure.
2. Increase student accessibility.
3. Expand faculty diversity.
4. Actively catalyze staff inclusion.
5. Leverage alumni connections.
The second set of goals relates to the broader community as a whole:
6. Develop a comprehensive approach to D&I training.
7. Maximize D&I potential in our pedagogy and curriculum.
8. Integrate D&I actions into communications and media.
9. Encourage immediate D&I actions through incentives.
10. Create key external partnerships to expand our impact.
As a steward of this plan, Dean Curry is committed to increasing access to higher education. For Dean Curry, this effort starts by repositioning the role of the architect into what he terms the “citizen-architect.” In the introduction to the plan, he states:
Our school—an academic-cultural institution—must give voice to epistemological horizons of our students and faculty that are not bounded by the perceptions of the architect as removed from the broader public. Architects are citizens too. They are pillars of communities, advocates for the sensitive design of public space and urban infrastructure, and tireless advocates of better design for the 99 percent.
The dean hopes to better amplify this core responsibility within each degree program—whether a student is studying in architecture, landscape architecture, heritage conservation, or building science. To this end, rather than simply add new priorities to our existing priorities, this plan works to integrate all new D&I-related strategies with the things we must do and always do each year, as we train a new generation of future practitioners tasked with imagining a better, more inclusive future.