Diversity, Social Equity and Design Excellence
Architecture and design excellence grow from critical engagement with diverse people and contexts. Life at the Illinois School of Architecture is based on our belief that the foundations of architectural education are distinctive, immersive and analytical experiences in a range of physical, cultural, social, political and economic milieus. In support of this belief, the school’s policies and programs promote diversity and social equity, taking an active stance on issues of justice and the built environment. We are committed to a departmental culture in which all students, staff, and faculty members—regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, national origin, gender, age, physical ability, or sexual orientation—are able to learn, teach, and work to their fullest potential. Through its inclusive culture, the Illinois School of Architecture seeks to increase diversity within the profession.
In its teaching, research, public engagement activities, and ongoing support for diverse groups of students and alumni, the school demonstrates its commitment to design excellence based in diversity and social equity.
In studio classes, lectures, and seminars, students are introduced to the traditions and architectural needs of diverse populations. Design studios emphasize the specific needs and expectations of a broad range of specific user groups. Community engaged studios allow students to interact directly with residents of economically distressed communities and to grapple with the complex problems of society. The school’s required courses incorporate diverse social and cultural perspectives, while elective courses focus on the needs of people in the environment, social justice and equity among minority populations, gender and race in contemporary architecture and in the profession. Graduate students are encouraged to take elective courses across campus, further exploring the needs of special populations.
Our international exchange opportunities and global studios enable students to gain a richer perspective on non-US cultures, and promote global conversations about architecture and its place in various societies around the world.
Faculty members are actively involved in research emphasizing issues of diversity, community building, and non-western architectural traditions. They conduct work both within and outside the United States that breaks new ground in architectural scholarship focused on the relationship between people and the physical, social, political, and economic dimensions of the environment. We invite you to explore faculty research agendas at our website’s faculty page and to contact faculty whose interests in diversity and social equity align with yours.
Through community engaged coursework, Action Research Illinois (ARI), and the Building Research Council (BRC), the school’s students and faculty actively work with challenged communities, reinvigorate aging housing stock, and assist traditionally underserved populations. ARI addresses immediate and long-term needs of distressed neighborhoods in East Central Illinois communities by engaging volunteers to apply both labor and creativity. Currently the BRC, in partnership with State of Illinois Energy Office, is engaged in an applied research demonstration addressing energy innovation for small and medium-sized Public Housing Authorities (PHA) though a grant from HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs.
Student and Alumni Organizations
The Illinois School of Architecture supports a strong local chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS), which is open to students from all backgrounds.
The Women in Architecture (WIA) organization provides opportunities for students to offer mutual support and meet with successful female academics and professionals in the design fields.
Global Architecture Brigades (GAB) designs and constructs socially responsible and sustainable architecture solutions in developing nations.
All student organizations work together to organize programs to increase diversity and inclusivity.
Minority Student Support Programs
The University of Illinois' Office of Minority Student Affairs (OMSA) assists the school and other campus programs in sustaining a welcoming and supportive learning environment for undergraduate minority students.
At the graduate level, the Graduate College Educational Equity Programs Office provides advice to graduate students interested in our graduate programs and also participates in outreach activities. The Graduate College operates two summer programs, the Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP) and the Summer Pre-Doctoral Institute (SPI) as well as McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. These programs invite minority students to campus and introduce them to university life, and to career opportunities in higher education.
At Illinois, we are an internationally recognized leader in educating future professionals and scholars in architecture and allied fields. We provide a robust technical and conceptual program that enables students to create and innovate. The depth and breadth of our curriculum enables students to become leaders in a range of disciplinary specialties. Our comprehensive programs prepare students to design and research in a rapidly changing global context from the macro to the micro scale through our bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.
Learn from the past. Question the present. Shape the future.
The school’s mission is based upon the tenet that great architecture grows from creative inquiry, built on a solid technical foundation, incorporating state-of-the-art research and reflection on the changing goals, beliefs, and resources of society. We value social, cultural, and intellectual diversity that underpins any vibrant and flourishing community. We believe that architects have various and vital roles in interpreting and determining the status, values, conditions, and direction of society, its culture and quality of life.
School of Architecture Culture and Environment
The Illinois School of Architecture fosters an academic culture that emphasizes: Respect, Sharing, Engagement, Innovation, Communication, and Academic Excellence among all members of our community.
This living document sets forth guidelines that encourage a positive and productive learning environment in which each of these ideals are equally valued. Faculty promote a learning environment in which students actively explore the design, historic, cultural, technical, and aesthetic aspects of architecture, and attain experience in the field through internships and community involvement. We work together honestly, courteously, and with integrity to pursue the shared goal of excellence in architectural education.
The School of Architecture’s Culture Policy specifically addresses four main topics of importance: Expectations | Physical Environment | Relationships | Implementation & Maintenance
Students and faculty base all time expectations on the notion of respect. The architecture community will be respectful of class time as well as outside commitments, allowing members to live a balanced lifestyle.
Students should practice effective time management skills that do not necessitate unduly intense and condensed efforts. Students will maintain realistic expectations of their own time obligations, resisting the temptation to overextend themselves and work to balance various commitments.
Professors and students should creatively address the critical issues facing architectural education and the profession. Both faculty and students are expected to be present throughout the duration of any established course and to provide constructive feedback and encouragement in a timely manner. Design reviews and other assessments are intended to evaluate but not to discredit student projects and efforts. Reviews and evaluations should be informative and critiques will be provided in ways that help students advance creatively, conceptually, and productively.
The design studio is an important component of architectural education. We strive to create an interactive studio environment where students learn from each other as well as their professors. To ensure a beneficial studio review experience, students must be well prepared mentally and be completely ready to present their work. Faculty should ensure that reviewers are well informed on the project specifications prior to the review and are able to advise based on project type, context, location, scope, and project phase.
Professors must provide students with course syllabi for each course at the start of each semester and strive to abide by their syllabi. Changes must be presented to students in written format well in advance of deadlines. Students are expected to be willing participants and engaged in their education.
The Illinois School of Architecture seeks to promote interaction between students and faculty from different cohorts, programs, and disciplines. Students and faculty are encouraged to engage in learning activities outside of the classroom. This includes opportunities that arise through external organizations. Engaging in these opportunities reinforces core values of the school, and builds relationships that continue after graduation.
Students and faculty are encouraged to develop professional relationships that extend beyond the immediate classroom environment. Through invitations for alumni to participate in student reviews, current students and alumni interact and create relationships that often continue into their professional careers. This also provides alumni the opportunity to view student work, engage with faculty, and understand transformations within the school.
The Illinois School of Architecture should be a safe, comfortable, and efficient place to work. To achieve this standard, we maintain the following principles:
Respect for Equipment: Our equipment will work and be up-to-date, to the best of the school’s ability.
Students, faculty, and other users should be taught how to properly use resources/equipment and must report damage as it happens.
Care: The building environment should provide a clean and healthy working venue. Students are responsible for maintaining their own environment. Emphasis shall be placed on environmental sustainability both inside and outside of the studio.
Students are encouraged to explore and communicate architectural expressions in an academic environment, including the school’s facilities, atrium and studio spaces, in a manner that does not pose any threat, disrespect or ulterior motive, which may undermine the integrity of school community.
Personal Safety/Property: The school will strive to provide security for all members of the school community. The community will respect the property of others, including personal property within shared spaces. In order to maintain property and personal safety, members of the school community are requested to secure buildings and studios. Students are encouraged to travel in groups when they leave campus buildings after dark.
The Illinois School of Architecture fosters a community based upon mutual respect, which promotes interaction and productivity among students, faculty, and staff. This community should be engaged, inquisitive, and supportive. We must practice tolerance of varied ideas, collegially discuss different perspectives and respect diverse perspectives and persons.
Students should be informed of, and where possible involved in, the administrative decision-making processes that may affect quality of academic experiences. These include but are not limited to curriculum changes, new school policies, leadership changes and new faculty hires.
Collaboration within the whole community, including students, faculty, staff, and professionals, is highly encouraged in design studios, other courses and independent studies. Through shared projects, courses, lectures, and social activities the architectural community will collaborate with others in the design and arts disciplines and interact with members of the larger university community to provide a well-rounded education, to increase knowledge, and to promote innovation.
When conflicts or disputes arise between faculty and students, among students, or among faculty, all members in the conflict should work to reach a solution in a respectful manner. If an acceptable solution cannot be achieved, parties involved should seek adjudication through the Illinois School of Architecture Student Concerns Committee for all conflicts involving students or the Illinois School of Architecture Faculty Grievance Committee if students are not a party to the conflict.
Implementation and Maintenance
This policy will be distributed to all members of the Illinois School of Architecture community each year through its placement on the school website, posting in visible locations in all school facilities and by physical distribution and discussion at appropriate all-school venues. Faculty should reference this policy as appropriate in course syllabi and discussions.
This policy is a living document to be changed and updated as needed. Periodically, a task force should be created that ensures representation from all student levels and faculty.
This policy was originated in 2010 by a student-faculty task force and revised in 2014.