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Perkins+Will and Tuskegee University Today Launch Annual Professional Visiting Scholar Program

Tuskegee University and Perkins+Will announced today an ambitious new visiting scholar program aimed at preparing students of the historically black university’s architecture school for careers in the design profession. The two-week intensive curriculum—a first of its kind for the university, and an extension of Perkins+Will’s broader Diversity, Inclusion, and Engagement program—begins today. It will be led by visiting scholar Nick Seierup, FAIA, principal at Perkins+Will’s Los Angeles studio.

“On behalf of the architecture faculty, I am honored to welcome Nick Seierup to the Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science School as our first nationally recognized visiting scholar,” says Tuskegee University Dean Carla Jackson Bell. “Nick’s professional experience expressively redefines socially relevant public places and institutions through his committed focus on the fundamental issues of community, context, and culture. We are proud to be one of the first Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to introduce this type of innovation into our curriculum.”

An Award-Winning Background

Seierup is a graduate of the Southern California Institute of Architecture and studied at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. He has taught at SCI-Arc, USC, UCLA and Woodbury University, and his design work with Perkins+Will is recognized with over 75 awards, including 50 from the American Institute of Architects (AIA). He recently led the $13.3 million revamp of the LA Police Department’s Metropolitan Division Headquarters, which has won numerous awards, including the 2017 Westside Urban Forum Westside Prize, a 2017 National AIA American Academy of Justice Citation Award, the 2017 City of LA Green Building Award, Los Angeles Architectural Awards, Los Angeles Business Council Award, and the 2016 AIA Los Angeles COTE LA Award.

For the inaugural visiting scholar program at Tuskegee University, Seierup will work in the design studios directly with upper-level students to help them strengthen and fine-tune their pre-thesis capstone project.

“Using case studies from the real world, such as the design of the LAPD Metropolitan Division headquarters, this intensive curriculum will demonstrate how architects can create successful designs through programming, site analysis, and precedent,” Seierup says. “It’s an example of how a strong program can transform not only a facility’s operation, but also the surrounding community.”

Perkins+Will and Tuskegee: An Ongoing Relationship

Kevin Holland, senior associate at Perkins+Will and director of operations for the firm’s Los Angeles studio, joined the Dean’s Architecture Advisory Board at Tuskegee University in April of this year. Working in collaboration with Gabrielle Bullock, director of global diversity at Perkins+Will, Holland was also instrumental in helping to identify potential candidates for the school's first visiting scholar position

While the visiting scholar program is new, in the spring of 2016, Perkins+Will’s Atlanta studio partnered with the school to develop a student-focused career development workshop. Later that fall, the studio hired Travis Armbrister, one of the students from that workshop and the first Tuskegee architecture graduate to join the firm.

“Our partnership with Tuskegee University is a natural extension of a firm-wide commitment we made in 2015 to build strong relationships with the architecture schools of HBCUs around the country,” says Gabrielle Bullock, director of global diversity at Perkins+Will. “These relationships enable us to mentor students and, in doing so, strengthen the talent pipeline for our profession while facilitating our own recruitment efforts.”

Perkins+Will supported the visiting scholar’s program by providing funding needed for the two-week curriculum that Seierup will lead. Additional funds are provided by the State of Alabama Board for Registration of Architects.

“Perkins+Will is committed to advancing diversity in the architecture profession through education,” says Eric Aukee, managing director of Perkins+Will’s LA studio. “We believe that it is more important than ever for private companies to play an active role in supporting the education of a diverse talent pool for future generations. We are thrilled to be leading this first time opportunity with Tuskegee University and we look forward to an ongoing partnership.”

Architectural Education at Tuskegee University

Tuskegee University’s history of architecture and construction education dates to 1883. During the school’s early years, students learned the trades of brick-making, architecture, and building. In 1933, the school began offering a Bachelor’s Degree in architecture. Today, the Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science—named after the first African-American to graduate from the MIT School of Architecture in 1892—is one of the preeminent HBCU architecture schools in the country. School officials have high hopes and expectations for the new visiting scholar program with Perkins+Will, as it supports the university’s commitment to advancing diversity in architectural education.

“Two-weeks is just the beginning, said Bell. “We have a strong vision to strengthen and grow Booker T. Washington’s mission to ‘learn to do by doing, and the first Perkins+Will visiting scholar is a key part of that success.”