Announcements 05.05.2022

Meet Taylor Mayes, The Phil Freelon Fellow from the Harvard Graduate School of Design

We’re honored to highlight Taylor Mayes, this year’s Phil Freelon Fellow from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). This national fellowship for African American and other under-represented students stems from a partnership with the GSD and our late colleague Phil Freelon. Introduced in 2016, the Phil Freelon Fellowship provides expanded academic opportunities to students of color, and helps fill the profession’s talent pipeline with more diverse designers.

In her own words, Taylor shares her passion for urban planning and communication design: 

Taylor and her fellow 2022 African American Student Union classmates

I graduated with a bachelor’s in Environmental Studies and Political Science from the University of Connecticut in 2018. Through my studies, extracurriculars, and internships, I focused primarily on the local impacts of climate change as well as Black political thought and activism. After graduation, I worked as Communications Coordinator and field Organizer for the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs. During my time at the Roundtable, I led a communications campaign around Transit Equity Day, which happens annually on Rosa Parks’ Birthday. I also supported community visioning sessions in the City of New London, CT, around the newly developing offshore wind industry and spearheaded the creation of the Black Environmental Activist Movement (BEAM), the first statewide network of Black environmental activists in Connecticut.

After three years of working in the field, I was looking for a program that would allow me to combine and sharpen these very skillsets and interests; I found the GSD was exactly the program where I could do so. What most attracted me to the GSD was its robust African American Student Union and bi-annual Black in Design conference, as well as the ability to take courses across Harvard’s different schools. I chose the Urban Planning program at the GSD because it would allow me to sharpen my communication design skills while also deepening my engagement with participatory planning and activism.

As part of the MUP first semester core studio, we were asked to examine the city of Cambridge while considering issues of the public realm through an equity lens. We were then asked to propose interventions to the public spaces in Central Square that might address our observed inequities. The format of the presentation was a 24”X36” foam board.

To help guide our observations, we were asked to consider the following questions: How can the urban planner help facilitate places of debate and learning? How can one map aspects of Equity in a neighborhood? What policy recommendations would ensure greater access to public space? What short- or long-term physical interventions can be integrated into the public realm that enable gathering, debate, and engagement?

Thank you for funding this fellowship. It has helped me pursue an education at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, which will allow me to further develop my interests in participatory planning and environmental justice.

Taylor and her classmates presenting their core studio research