Pipelines are relationships: A case for committed relationship building
By Beresford Pratt, AIA, NOMA
Vasquez began reflecting on the impact that educating students had on her: “Coming from a small-town community, I have seen the effects of limited education opportunities, and I now see the genuine excitement when new ideas and material are presented by real-world practitioners. The students are always engaged and full of questions. I love seeing the students’ creativity shine, and it is a constant reminder that we are accomplishing something worthwhile for the next generation.”
McAllister says, “At the end of the day, these efforts boil down to a group of people of all ages and backgrounds in one space, sharing a passion for making the world a better and more interesting place. It’s the children’s passion and open-mindedness that is both a constant inspiration and can be routinely humbling. They are our future, and I feel honored to help them discover a passion for design to help shape the world around them.” Connecting:
After our five-day series, we follow up with a final opportunity for students to visit our headquarters in Baltimore. This day gives students the chance to share their work in front of a larger group of design professionals. Students who aren’t shy are often quick to present, and with a little encouragement, many follow their lead. When it’s possible, we bring students from Morgan State University (MSU), a local historically Black college with an accredited architecture program, to share their academic journey, experience, and work. As the intermediary between Beechfield and MSU, it’s our hope that facilitating a connection as well as working with middle- and high-schoolers, will further reinforce the idea that a career in design is possible and strengthen the pipeline.Baltimore Design School
Baltimore Design School (BDS) is a public middle school and high school that goes beyond the traditional state curriculum. Teaching art, design, communication, and critical thinking skills, BDS offers students three pathways: architecture, graphic design, or fashion design.
This summer, Ayers Saint Gross hosted virtual sessions for a group of middle-schoolers to pique their interest. This interactive, two-day session included live polling, chat discussion, presentations, and sketching. Parents joined their children, and we were thrilled to receive feedback from a parent who noticed a growing confidence in their child following these sessions.
Todtz has found that “engaging with students from BDS has not only reinvigorated my own design interests and curiosities but has also filled me with hope for the new generation. As future leaders who will lead the charge against some of the world’s most complex challenges, our shared discussions and design exercises have not only encouraged students to pursue architecture and affiliated disciplines, but perhaps more importantly, provided a critical space for students to build and discover their own voice and identity through design.”
On Shadow Day, we welcomed BDS high school students in the architecture pathway to our office. The students explored our firm’s body of work and participated in design charrettes with our team. A BDS director later shared that on their ride back home, the students were so excited to drive by a park they reimagined during one of their mock design charrettes.
These moments remind me why it’s important to make design relatable, approachable, and tangible. What is equally important is the connection and impact you can have with a student at a personal level.
Looking to build authentic connections, Wendland shared her experience on mentorship: “I’ve been so inspired by the programs at BDS and the creative talent of the students that I signed up for the inaugural iMentor program last year. This program matches each 11th-grade student with a working professional to help them navigate their career paths and transition to life after high school. The relationship I have grown with my mentee has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career, and I hope that the guidance and support I have been able to provide her is as valuable as the lessons, perspectives, and joy she has provided me.” The Pipeline Dream
I believe the pipeline process is highly relational at an institutional and individual level. Real impact occurs through connections that can form organically. Like all great relationships, it takes time and commitment to nurture. A few years ago, we were introduced to a young man pursuing the architecture pathway at Baltimore Design School. He also happened to be a Beechfield alumnus who was introduced to design during elementary school because of Ayers Saint Gross.
My dream is to see a student we’ve worked with join us as a full-time employee one day. This dream may not be something that happens overnight, but it’s what I believe true equity looks like — a steady effort to support and elevate underrepresented voices across our industry through relationships.
Beresford Pratt, AIA, NOMA
Beresford Pratt is an Architect at Ayers Saint Gross in Baltimore. He is the 2019-2020 Young Architect Regional Director for the AIA Mid-Atlantic region and founding member of Bmore NOMA.