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Academic Affairs + Diversity

CAUS Academic Affairs overview

Kathryn Clarke Albright, AIA
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Architecture

In the office of undergraduate academic affairs, the academic year 2016-2017 was notable in numerous ways, especially for its expanded diversity initiatives, undergraduate enrollment growth, new curricula including a new minor and major, as well as additional academic advisor positions.

The Diversity Committee launched two new initiatives – Intersections: Interdisciplinary Conversations about Social Disparity in the Built Environment, and Community Narratives.

The number of undergraduates enrolled in Building Construction increased by 50 percent and Architecture by 20 percent.

Several new courses were created as part of the Pathways Minor in Visual Arts and Society, and the EXPLORE CAUS major was introduced for students who wish to study one of the majors in the college but are undecided which one to pursue.

Due to increased enrollments, Building Construction and Architecture each received new academic advisor positions.



InclusiveVT Inclusion and Diversity

Strategic Planning Guide

InclusiveVT is the institutional and individual commitment to Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) in the spirit of community, diversity, and excellence. As Virginia Tech moves Beyond Boundaries to advance diverse communities of learning equipped for a 21st century education, it is critical for each college and department to engage in diversity strategic planning to support the university’s goals of an increasingly diverse faculty, staff, and student population, and to prepare students to address issues facing an increasingly diverse and complex society. The new incentive budgeting process incorporates diversity metrics as it asks colleges and units to formulate multi-year goals with an emphasis on national benchmarking.  This template provides a guide for thinking strategically about how your college or department promotes inclusion and diversity.

InclusiveVT advances four institutional goals:

  • Institutionalizing structures to promote sustainable transformation
  • Increasing faculty, staff, and student diversity
  • Ensuring a welcoming, affirming, safe, and accessible campus climate
  • Advancing the academic mission through inclusion and diversity


The College of Architecture and Urban Studies continuously strives toward an inclusive climate within its entire community including its students and faculty:

  1. To develop and maintain a rich, pleasant and diversified working and learning environment that allows and encourages all members to excel. The environment must support the diversity of present and future members of the college community;
  2. To maintain and expand the College’s nationally and internationally recognized reputation for academic excellence that relies in part on the diversified disciplines, faculty, staff and student populations represented in the College;
  3. To ensure that each member of the College community will remain productive and active within an organizational structure and culture that accepts and encourages open dialogue and communication as well as respectful acceptance of differences; and
  4. To continuously develop a rich multi-cultural component to ongoing and future research, teaching, curricula and outreach efforts. Aspects of this perspective should be integrated within all areas of the College. To that end, the College must encourage among its faculty, staff and students open-mindedness toward curiosity concerning awareness of issues that are multi-cultural in character.”

This statement was publicized as part of CAUS Diversity Strategic Plan 2006-2012 and updated for the 2012-2018 University Strategic Plan. All faculty members were presented with the document, which became the operational mission of the CAUS Diversity Committee comprised faculty, staff and student ambassadors.

“As an academic entity, the College of Architecture and Urban Studies is identified with insightful planning, place-making, community, creative design, and visual and construction arts. Through these physical and visual arts, we put into play the concepts and applications that encourage, build, and embrace the multi-cultural diversity of our world. The CAUS Diversity Committee provides leadership, direction, and assistance in strengthening and sustaining a diverse environment with a supportive, nurturing climate for the College community.”

This statement appears on the CAUS webpage about its Diversity Committee, which was updated in 2016 and will be updated annually.

During the 2016-2017 year, CAUS launched several model/signature inclusion and diversity programs within the unit that significantly advance or advanced diversity and inclusion.

With establishment of the CAUS Diversity Committee, we organize annual initiatives that engage the broad university community and local citizens. During 2016-2017, there was a series of events under the umbrella title, “Intersections: Interdisciplinary Conversations about Social Justice and the Built Environment,” as well as “An Exhibition of Cultures: Traditional Garments, Accessories from Countries and Regions,” and documentation of Community Narratives, a collection of individual portraits combined with personal response to the question, “Based on your lived experiences, what does diversity mean in your life?”

Additionally, the college held events during VT’s MLK week and VT’s Principles of Community week. The events occur in the Art + Architecture Library and draw between 50 – 100 people. Along with the exhibition, there was a fashion show in which three-dozen students modeled clothing from 17 countries. The success of these initiatives contributed to recognition of CAUS being named ‘Diversity Champion’ by Metropolis magazine in March 2017. (https://archive.caus.vt.edu/caus-named-a-diversity-champion-by-metropolis/)

We also established the CAUS Diversity Recognition Award, which acknowledges accomplishments of faculty, staff and students. Nominees are solicited and voted upon by the College’s Honorifics Committee, and presented annually at the College’s awards ceremony.

The International Archive of Women in Architecture hosted an annual, three-day symposium that brings women architects and designers from around the world to campus. The IAWA Symposium 2017 featured women architects and designers from around the world. The keynote speaker was Professor Lesley Lokko, Head of the Graduate School of Architecture in Johannesburg, South Africa. Overall more than 100 CAUS students and visitors attended the talks and participated in the IAWA Workshop with Lesley Lokko. The workshop had 35 participants including undergraduates, masters, and doctoral students from the college. Other speakers included Alice Finnerup Møller from Finland and Meral Ekincioglu, PhD. from Turkey, Un Dia Una Arquitecta – UDUA made a video presentation from Argentina, and Kristine Fallon, FAIA, Chicago, presented “Improving Communication On Large, Complex Projects.” School faculty Sharóne Tomer, PhD. contributed “The Bind: Architecture and Gendered Aspiration.” Other IAWA Board Advisors attending Dr. Anna Sokolina, a Russian historian, and Sarantsatsral Ochirpurev from Mongolia with Electrical Engineer Enkh-Od Adilbish also from Mongolia.

The Milka Bliznakov Research Prize was established in 2001 to honor IAWA founder and advisor emerita, Dr. Milka Bliznakov (1927-2010). The IAWA Center invites architects, scholars, professionals, students, and researchers to contribute research on women in architecture and related design fields. This research, in concert with the preservation efforts of the IAWA, will help fill the current void in historical knowledge about the achievements and work of women who shaped the built environment. 2016 winning proposals include: “Refugee and émigré female architects before 1940” by Dr. Tanja Poppelreuter, Belfast School of Architecture, Ulster University, Belfast, UK and “A synergy between the International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA) and the Un día | una arquitecta [A women architect | a day] webpage” by Dr. Ines Moisset, Architect, Cordoba, Argentina and Floriencia Marciani, Architect, Cordoba, Argentina along with collaborators – Maria Cecilia Kesmann, Gueni Ojeda, Silvina Barraud, Marcela Roitman, and Lorena Fernandez, all of Argentina. This group is made up of architects who edit the Un día | una arquitecta webpage. The team is composed of professionals within the field of academic and mass media publishing from various countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Mexico, Peru, Spain, Uruguay). We have cooperated with other organizations such as Wikimedia and Col.lectiu Punt6 (Barcelona, Spain). In this particular project, copywriters from Argentina will be working.

“Fire in the Library” is a series of presentations and discussions organized by the IAWA Group, a special study group led by Prof. Paola Zellner to further the mission and goals of the IAWA. Four events were hosted during the academic year: two 2016 Milka Bliznakov Research Prize recipients, Dr Tanja Poppelreuter and Florencia Marciani presented their winning proposals (mentioned above) and plans of research; the IAWA Group presented material uncovered during initial stages of their research, which is in support of the Bliznakov Prize awardees; Prof. Sharóne Tomer and Prof. Joseph Bedford addressed from their distinct perspectives questions about the role of gender in architecture drawing from the archive; and Prof. Lesley Lokko, architect and novelist of Scottish and Ghanean descent, read samples of her novels and discussed racial and gender issues in her experience as an author and architect.

The IAWA Newsletter has been published annually since 1989, and includes stories about recent additions to the archive as well as scholarship written by its board members and architects from around the world. Mailed to 1000 professionals and libraries around the world.

The CAUS Ambassador Program places students in a position of leadership and community engagement. In 2016-2017, CAUS had 26 ambassadors representing programs across the College who served as tour guides for prospective students and their families and participated in recruitment events such as Open Houses, Hokie Focus, and High School Spring Break Week throughout the year. They also sent out hand-written congratulatory postcards and made phone calls to every student offered admission to the College.

Two CAUS Associate Deans (Kathryn Clarke Albright, Academic Affairs and Patrick Miller, Graduate School) serve on the Advance VT/Inclusive VT team, which meets regularly throughout the year, and report out to the Dean following its meetings.

The CAUS Diversity Committee is overseen by the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, and composed of elected faculty and staff representatives and student ambassadors from all four schools with the College. The group meets twice a year to identify the initiatives it will undertake for the coming year, and each committee member commits to assist in implementation of one of three initiatives described above. The success of these initiatives contributed to recognition of CAUS being named a ‘Diversity Champion’ by Metropolis magazine in March 2017.

Building Women in Construction (BWIC) was founded in 2014 by five female students in the Building Construction Department at Virginia Tech and now boasts 70 undergraduate and 10 graduate members. The purpose of this organization is to unite women students studying construction-related disciplines. This organization is not specifically for female members only; however, the overall intention is to help provide additional support and resources to help women succeed in this field of study. The goal is to become a nationally known organization that offers young women chances to network within their universities, communities, and the industry. Much of this networking is performed through their many contacts across the industry, who are enthusiastic about connecting with BWIC. In the past year, these connections have allowed BWIC to have representatives from Gilbane, MBP, VRS, Forrester Construction, Frank L Blum, The Gordian Group and Rolyn participate with our members through a question and answer panel about their firsthand experiences. Eight members of the BWIC took a three-day trip to Washington D.C. to visit sites with Forrester Construction, Gilbane and Manhattan Construction. Providing these personal connections to workers and more often women workers in a field of interest aims to give our members confidence and understanding of that work.

BWIC also offers a career fair prep workshop through the Career Center every semester before the MLSoC Career Fair. BWIC is also active in the local community and has sponsored an MLSoC homecoming tailgate, participated in The Big Event, and took part in the STEAM-Up Carnival by promoting women in STEM careers to local elementary school students.

Monthly meetings in addition to events are aimed at unifying the club, providing insight and presentations, and maintaining their direction. Meetings are generally followed by study nights where students can get homework help or just get work done. Mentorship from older members is valued greatly to promote a successful and confident younger generation within the group.

SPIA Diversity Task Force was charged by the School’s Director to develop a plan to diversify the school with respect to recruitment and retention of students, its curriculum and co-curricular activities as well as its public affairs scholarship. The submitted a report with recommendations in May 2015.

National Organization of Minority Architects, Student chapter (NOMAS), CAUS chapter founded in October 1992 and became registered in 1993 as the MAC (Minority Architecture Coalition). They have recently become active again this year and are ready to serve the community. They are a student-oriented organization focused on helping minorities in this career field network with each other.

Studio Collective was established in 2014 as the official design journal of the School of Architecture + Design at Virginia Tech, and celebrates the work of students with the aim to broaden awareness and conversations about design. It focuses on student projects amassed from the majors of architecture, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, and landscape architecture. The journal also features in-depth interviews, articles, event coverage, and relevant news in our community. Comprosed of students from all majors and walks of life, the team aims to garner love and admiration for the hard work of Virginia Tech’s design disciples. A new issue is released every semester at various locations around campus. In 2017, there were students from 10 different countries and 12 different academic majors working together on the publication.

SCOPE was founded as a way for undergraduates and graduates to actively engage in broadening the scope of our design education. It is an avenue to supplement our education with topics and issues that they feel should be addressed. Aims are:

  1. To encourage diverse representation in the student body, faculty, and administration;
  2. To promote social consciousness as a critical responsibility for all designers; and
  3. To ask difficult questions of our peers and faculty.

Events included an open lecture by Weston Walker of Studio Gang and presentations in the College’s Art + Architecture Library. Topics included “Designing in a New Political Era,” “Craft and Form,” “Appalachian Identity,” “Architecture and Capitalism,” “American Urban History, “ “Design in Crisis,” and “Design Across Disciplines.”