Selser Schaefer Architects’ work is about more than buildings, structures, and inside spaces. It’s about connecting people and creating community. It’s about giving people a place to be and belong. Ideally, our team would reflect the communities we serve. However, our industry severely lacks diversity at all levels. There are systemic reasons for this inequity ranging from a lack of representation to the high costs and accessibility of training and education. Although we can’t directly influence university program fees and admission policies, we can make our industry more equitable closer to home and work to be actively anti-racist as we consider decisions in hiring, donations/financial support, and employee relations.
As one of our first action items, we launched our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Scholarship Program in January 2021. Created to support and mentor students from historically underrepresented demographics in architecture and interior design, the scholarship includes a one-time award of $2,500 and a paid summer internship at Selser Schaefer Architects.
We are pleased to announce our inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Scholarship Program winner, Autumn Tiller!
Autumn is currently getting her Master of Urban Design at OU and also has a B.S. in Design, Housing, and Merchandising with an Interior Design/Facility Management Option from OSU. Her experience in the industry, project portfolio, passion for design, and commitment to affecting change in our industry – specifically in Tulsa – make her a highly qualified scholarship recipient and an exciting addition to our team.
When asked as part of the application process to answer the question, “What role does diversity and inclusion play in the design world, and how does your unique experience inform your design approach?” Autumn replied —
“My experience as a person of color (POC) and as a designer has given me the ability to make something out of nothing. To be resourceful. To think outside the box. To not refute any option, to say “yeah, let’s try that” without hesitation. Diversity and inclusion in terms of design both challenge the status quo and aid in fostering relationships outside of conscious (or unconscious) boundaries. With people from diverse backgrounds and cultural influences, we cultivate ideas that draw inspiration from multiple facets of individual or collective experiences. We establish relationships and connections that otherwise would not have been fostered. We find amazement in cultures that have been and continue to be adaptive and resilient. In a country where the benefit of the doubt is not necessarily an option as a POC, we adapt what we can. We adapt our hair, our manner of speaking, what conceals or exposes our bodies. We spend much of our formative years having to be extraordinarily self-aware; now I choose to facilitate the narrative that we are the norm and that we deserve to be seen, heard and have influence in decisions that affect our—and others’—communities.”
We are grateful to Autumn for joining our team and our efforts to improve access to the field of architecture!
Selser Schaefer Architects’ Equity Initiative
Supporting Future Architects:
We are committed to improving access to the field of architecture for underrepresented populations including BIPOC, women, LGBTQ+, and low socioeconomic status through the following actions:
- Each fiscal year we will select several post-secondary education scholarships and/or training programs also committed to serving diverse student populations to support financially.
- We will actively seek diverse architects-in-training for experiences and opportunities at our firm (e.g. internships, student projects).
- We are improving our grassroots K-12 campaign to be more strategic, reach more students, and have a greater impact. We believe introducing design and architecture to children as young as elementary school can open their eyes to career opportunities.
To coordinate a field trip, classroom visit, afterschool partnership, or learn more, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Partner Whitney Stauffer reading Iggy Peck Architect by Andrea Beaty to classrooms over Zoom to teach kids about architecture.
- We have created an anti-racism section in our professional library stocked with books that focus on systemic racism and the experiences of Black People. Our employees are encouraged to read, learn, and develop an understanding of what it means to be anti-racist.
- We are adding Implicit Bias training to our onboarding process to ensure our entire team understands the impact that bias has on their work, designs, communication, etc.
- And most importantly, we are going to work harder on diversifying our own team. We are going to increase our recruitment channels, modify our job descriptions, and proactively seek architects from underrepresented populations for every single job opening we have in the future until our organization more accurately reflects our community.