Clemson students honored by National Organization of Minority Architects


The National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) has named the organization’s Clemson University Student Chapter (cNOMAS), as the 2022 student chapter of the year.

The honor was announced at the NOMA Nashville Unplugged 2022 conference on October 28. The Clemson chapter stood out from more than 100 student chapters in the organization.

“I was so shocked and honored to know that we won the award,” said Sheldon Johnson, current president of cNOMAS. “What really touched me wasn’t the award itself, but the conversations after winning with other schools and how this event inspired them to potentially host their conferences.”

The award follows the success of the “Addressing Erasure: Designing our Future” conference, which the chapter organized and held in Charleston in March 2022.

“With the goal of addressing issues of inequality, injustice, racial discrimination and bigotry, cNOMAS knew Charleston would be an appropriate setting,” said Michael Urueta, former president of cNOMAS. “A romantic and usually veiled history of slavery and social issues has heightened the need to have critical conversations about the truth of the city, the engineered environment, and how we can engineer a better future.”

Urueta and Johnson, along with Clemson School of Architecture students Diego Bazanni, Angie Mendoza, Seth Moore and Adrianna Spence, organized the conference with support from faculty advisors Clarissa Mendez and David Allison.

Our goal as CNOMAS is to create a more impactful and collaborative architecture studio space for our colleagues to foster creativity and camaraderie among classmates.

Sheldon Johnson, President of cNOMAS

The conference was held at three sites: the Clemson Design Center in Charleston (CDC.C), Mother Emmanuel AME Church, and the New International African American Museum. The keynote address was delivered at Mother Emmanuel by Michael Murphy, Founding Director and Executive Director of MASS Design Group.

In addition to Murphy, the students got a list of speakers who would be impressive even by the standards of professionally organized conferences: Professor Rhondda Robinson Thomas, whose Call My Name project revealed the impact of African-American workers enslaved or convicted on the construction of Clemson. environment; Michael Arad, partner at Handel Architects, LLC, whose design, “Reflecting Absence,” was selected for the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site; Ray Huff, former director of the CDC.C; Michael Allen, ’99, founder of MOA Architecture, Inc. and leader of the Echo Theater project; and Kimberly Dowdell, former National President of NOMA and Director of Marketing at HOK.

“The NOMA Board of Directors was impressed that we have accomplished so much as a student chapter without a professional chapter in the state, and we hope that student success will encourage architects in South Carolina to establish a NOMA chapter here,” Mendez said.

However, the conference was not the only way cNOMAS made an impact. In the 2021-22 school year, they hosted a “Welcome Back” tailgate party for their fellow students and partnered with other student organizations to serve a midterm “Thanksgiving Potluck.” They have also recorded podcasts, inviting architectural professionals to talk about justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.

“Our goal as cNOMAS is to create a more impactful and collaborative architecture studio space for our colleagues to foster creativity and camaraderie among classmates,” Johnson said. “If we can design healthy spaces for our future clients to grow and evolve, why not create spaces for our future architects to do the same? »

cNOMAS was founded in 2015 by RJ Wilson, Rayshad Dorsey and Julian Owens, AIA, NOMA. Owens became the NOMA Parliamentarian, Dorsey is pursuing a master’s degree at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and RJ Wilson remains an active member of cNOMAS, currently pursuing a master’s degree in architecture at Clemson.

“It has been an incredible and humbling opportunity to see the progress the cNOMAS Chapter has made since its inception,” Wilson said. “At the time, we didn’t know the major impact the chapter would have on the School of Architecture, but we knew it was a necessary organization. Being able to see cNOMAS grow from a relatively unknown chapter to being recognized nationally for its efforts over the past few years confirms how much the chapter was needed.

NOMA was established in 1971 by a group of 14 architects who recognized the desperate need for an organization dedicated to the development and advancement of minority architects. Its 2022 conference drew more than 1,250 attendees from across the country.

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