Berkeley Launches Graduate Scholarship for Social Purpose Architecture and Urban Planning Students
Graduate students in Architecture and Planning who commit to working in social justice-related positions for at least three years after graduation will be eligible to apply for full scholarships at the University of California, Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design thanks to a new donor funded four-year pilot program.
Programs to induce students to undertake public service work are well established in education, law and medicine and are typically implemented through student debt cancellation programs. . But Berkeley’s program is far more unusual, and perhaps unique, in the world of architecture and design.
“What we’ve seen in recent years with rising tuition fees is that the burden of student debt has been a real barrier for people doing the kind of radical and transformational social justice work that they want to do, “said Vishaan Chakrabarti, the William W. Wurster Dean of the College of Environmental Design. “It really allows them to do it. This gives them the freedom not to have to worry about student debt and instead focus on how they can return to communities of color and other marginalized communities and have a social impact. “
Chakrabarti said the college expects to offer full scholarships to around 27 graduate students per year for the four-year pilot course. Eligible students may be from any of the college’s graduate programs, which include programs in architecture, urban and regional planning, landscape architecture, and environmental planning, as well as real estate development and design.
The Arcus Social Justice Corps Fellowship Program is funded by a donation of $ 5.3 million from Jon Stryker, the billionaire heir to Stryker Corp., a medical equipment company, and an architect who graduated from Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design.
“My goal in making this gift is simple – to enable these bright and talented students to experience the idealism that drew them to Berkeley in the first place,” Stryker said in a written statement. “Their professional growth will have a multiplier effect that will benefit diverse communities, large and small, by removing the financial barriers that often exist for those pursuing careers in social justice. “
Chakrabarti said the commitment to work in social justice-related roles after graduation is non-binding and the program will not include a verification mechanism. But he said he wasn’t worried about what happened to the students.
“We know our students, and that’s what most of them want to do regardless of this program,” Chakrabarti said. He added that he expects a student’s experience participating in the program and making connections with other students committed to social justice to serve to strengthen their own commitment.
“This is a cohort model, so these 27 students come from all of these different programs,” Chakrabarti said. “They periodically meet with a program coordinator who gives lectures and classes on social impact practice. These 27 students all get to know each other over time.
Karen Chapple, professor and chair of the Urban and Regional Planning program, echoed the idea that most students coming to Berkeley are already motivated to pursue social justice goals in their careers.
“I would say 80 percent of our students go out and work in one way or another for the good of society,” she said. “The problem, though, is that we have students who go into huge debt once they get to college, and that means some of the more talented students aren’t able to get out and about. get the job of their dreams. In particular, it hurts those who intended to enter the nonprofit sector. “
Chapple said, for example, that jobs at nonprofits focused on housing affordability in cities like New York City, San Francisco or Washington, DC tend to be highly desirable but lower paying. Other employment options for graduates who studied planning would include government positions or higher paying positions in private engineering or architectural firms.
Renee Chow, chair of the Berkeley Department of Architecture, said the creation of the scholarship coincides “with the huge transformation that I think all architecture schools are going through right now.”
“Everyone recognizes that a lot of the way architecture is taught is actually based on a very Western canon of understanding how people live, and that’s a very narrow perspective, and then a lot many things flow from that, ”Chow said. . “I think if you look at the website of almost every architectural school, there are statements that have emerged about what all of the different schools are now picking up on as part of a mission to increase diversity within of our schools and our profession. “
“I think in general this signals a sea change for the teaching of architecture,” said Chow, “and this investment is definitely going to make a huge difference to what our profession, our discipline is going to do at the to come up.”
Michael J. Monti, executive director of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, said he was not aware of any similar programs in architecture linking scholarships to pursuing work related to social justice after graduation.
The choice to phrase brotherhood in the language of social justice is important, Monti said. “It positions people who work in design as advocates, not that patronizing feeling of bringing in experts for the underprivileged. Architecture in particular does not have a great history of using the tools of the profession. to help defend justice or equity. “
Faculty members at Berkeley College of Environmental Design also hope that the scholarship program will help the public university compete with financial aid and scholarships offered by private universities for top architecture and design students and attract more students. diversified.
Chakrabarti said the college graduate population lags behind its undergraduate population in terms of diversity.
“At undergraduate level, we are about a third of underrepresented minorities, about 41 percent of first generation students, but our graduate students only make up about 15 percent of under-represented minorities,” he said. declared. “We would like to see that number increase or at least see that 15% better supported. To the extent that the law allows us, we will target this to a diverse population. “