The Voice of Interns: Building a more Inclusive Industry
What does it take to evolve the design industry so that we can design a better future for all? Our 2021 intern class shares their insights and experiences on how EDI plays a crucial role in addressing the challenges of tomorrow.
Assembling diverse project teams in the design industry is important for organizational success. Substantial research has proven that teams of people from diverse backgrounds consistently outperform homogenous teams, as they are more creative, better problem-solvers and can address issues from underrepresented groups.
At SmithGroup we continually invest in advancing diversity and inclusion through our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship and our partnership with HBCU’s. We spoke with our 2021 recipients from both our annual EDI scholarship and our new partnership program with HBCU's about why EDI and their internship experiences are important in evolving the industry by creating future leaders to help drive change.
Evolving the Industry through Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Being able to design a better future for everyone means that we tackle design challenges that will address the needs of all groups. Our interns expand on why they believe diversity is such an integral part of the work we do.
- “Investing in diversity in the present would provide for an inclusive and integrated design space in the future. An inclusive design space would allow for the incorporation of diverse ideas from diverse minds.” - Kelli Johnson, EDI Scholarship Recipient, Penn State University, Bachelor of Architectural Engineering - Structural
- “A design team that is composed of different demographics is going to have a larger pool of ideas. Each person is going to have different talents based on their personal and academic experiences. They are going to be able to bring those new and unique solutions to the table that might not have been considered in a more homogeneous setting.” - Peyton Smith, EDI Scholarship Recipient, University of Wyoming, Master of Engineering
- “Inclusive design in the profession is how we think about issues, understand different needs and propose ideas to create the spaces where people can feel happy. It is essential to be empathetic to understand other's needs and be able to design the spaces. I believe that it is possible to improve people’s life conditions through architecture. I decided to apply to the Equity Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship at SmithGroup, because I believe in these fundamental values.” - Hali Sheriff, EDI Scholarship Recipient, University at Buffalo, Master of Architecture
- “It is important for design firms to invest in diversity for two reasons: First, because the world is not homogeneous, and second, because all these design firms are in many ways responsible for the design of our built environments. We need to hear those perspectives so that designers can create environments, plan cities, and design buildings that are inclusive for everyone.” - Miguel Jiménez, EDI Scholarship Recipient, Georgia Institute of Technology, Master of Architecture and Master of Urban Planning
Shaping the Industry through Personal Experiences
Interns bring fresh perspectives on organizational issues that can range from utilizing new technology to rethinking existing processes. We asked our interns how their personal experience as someone from an underrepresented group can make a difference not only for SmithGroup, but for the industry.
- “The perspective that I brought to SmithGroup has been unique in the fact that I can communicate the different design needs from that of my own community and communities like mine. I am now able to use my learning experience from SmithGroup to cater to the design needs of underrepresented communities.” - Kelli Johnson, EDI Scholarship Recipient, Penn State University, Bachelor of Architectural Engineering - Structural
- “My experience as someone who's from a Hispanic background are important in the design world because Hispanics are the largest minority in the United States. Yet, we do not have the level of recognition or representation that we should as such a large group of people.” - Miguel Jiménez, EDI Scholarship Recipient, Georgia Institute of Technology, Master of Architecture and Master of Urban Planning
- “In college, I was the only female and Hispanic in most of my classes, and that is because in some places there is still the idea that architecture is an exclusive job for men. I think it is important to embrace diversity in design firms by bringing in those perspectives. Diversity brings fresh and creative ideas, and I think people will work more efficiently, increasing the productivity of the company.” - Melanie Holguin, HBCU Partnership Intern, Hampton University, Master of Architecture
- “My personal experience from growing up in West Africa has allowed me to draw from a wealth of influences rarely represented in the design world. I believe that this is something that will help make my mark in the design world in the future.” - Daphne Arko-Dadzie, HBCU Partnership Intern, Howard University, Master of Architecture
Creating Opportunities for Future Leaders
Opening opportunities to students that help them grow and advance their career within the industry is crucial to make changes within it. As much as SmithGroup is looking to learn from our interns, we strive to ensure that they have the opportunity and environment to achieve their goals and become the next generation of design leaders.
- “It was evident to me that SmithGroup really cared about their work and their community. It encouraged me to want to apply and be a part of that team for the summer. I really support what the EDI scholarship stands for: equity, leveling the playing field; diversity, an array of different types of people; and inclusion, bringing those different types of people together.” - Peyton Smith, EDI Scholarship Recipient, University of Wyoming, Master of Engineering
- “I decided to pursue the internship at SmithGroup due to my experience with the mentors from the firm. All the observations, notes and advice, enhance my approach to the design process and to the architectural field in general. I wanted to work for SmithGroup because the firm sparked and continues to spark that growth.” - Daphne Arko-Dadzie, HBCU Partnership Intern, Howard University, Master of Architecture
- “For me, the internship at SmithGroup is an excellent opportunity to work on different teams, to learn from others, and to expand my knowledge, contributing positively to my professional training.” - Hali Sheriff, EDI Scholarship Recipient, University at Buffalo, Master of Architecture