Congratulations to AIA’s Next President

Kimberly Dowdell, the 295th living black woman to earn an architect’s license, is the first black woman to serve as AIA president.

Designers across the country are now “envisioning new possibilities,” like architect Kimberly Nicole Dowdell recently asked them to, during her campaign to become the American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2024 president-elect. Now that she has been elected, Dowdell will be the first black woman to serve in that role since the group’s 1857 founding. 

But it’s hardly her first time delivering on promises of meaningful, professional change. As a marketing principal in Chicago for global firm HOK, her focus is on building the portfolio she manages; and as the 2019-2020 president of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), her “All In for NOMA” strategy was responsible for more than doubling the group’s paid memberships and its annual budget. During the protests over the murder of George Floyd, she also led NOMA in issuing a compassionate, but unflinching challenge to the profession to increase equity where they have the most power to do so—inside firms.

“We have the ability to not only see the future, but design a better one.”

Kimberly dowdell, AIA 2024 president-elect

Now Dowdell, a Cornell University alum with a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School, has an action plan for the AIA. Called the “AIA Alphabet Strategy,” it encompasses calls to action in the areas of Advocacy, Belonging, Climate Action, and Designing the future among other priorities.

Over her career, the Detroit native has embraced the full range of practice experiences by working in federal and city government roles, and in positions at small, medium, and large firms. While representation and diversity are among her priorities, Dowdell also has a track record of establishing new higher standards for practice: As an undergraduate student intern at the U.S. General Services Administration, she created the concept that underpins the Social, Economic, and Environmental Design (S.E.E.D) Network, which connects members of the general public with practitioners and now has more than 2,000 global members. 

“My journey from humble beginnings to a dynamic career in architecture is highly improbable,” Dowdell said in her campaign speech. “But that’s what’s so special about being an architect. We have the ability to not only see the future, but to design a better one.”

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