Building a Community with MSP NOMA by Alejandra Cervantes
The National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) is a professional organization with targeted goals dedicated to empowering, mentoring, and supporting minority professionals. The Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter is among the most recent additions to NOMA, only established in January 2017. MSP NOMA's founding goals include educating communities and creating collaborative business partnerships, goals which were set forth by the Assembly of Architects (AoA), a non-profit Minnesota-based organization committed to supporting architects and design professionals of color with job opportunities, mentorship, and networking events. Building on these goals, MSP NOMA seeks to implement outreach programs, community events, and other engaging workshops to attract members.
During February 2017, MSP NOMA hosted two membership drives, one at the offices of HGA Architects & Engineers in Minneapolis, and one at BWBR in St. Paul. Both events carried a casual undertone, which gave way to networking as colleagues throughout the Twin Cities area met and established relationships. The leadership team of MSP NOMA were very active during the events and were happy to engage with members of the profession from any design background. Chapter President Damaris Hollingsworth from THOR Design Plus at THOR Companies is actively engaged with the AIA as well as being a leading advocate for diversity in the workplace. Open to the broader public, attendees ranged from minority practicing architects, architects-in-training, students, and faculty from the School of Architecture at UMN. Fortunately, I was able to attend both events held at the Twin Cities firms. Given the host locations, this was also a great opportunity to visit an architecture firm. My graduate degree colleague, Angella Dariah, is currently employed at BWBR and, since it worked out so nicely, we agreed to attend each other's respective firm's event.
Currently employed at HGA, I was incredibly excited to be a part of the membership drive and to get to know more of the design community of the Twin Cities. I was surprised to find myself in the midst of conversation with more than a handful of Latin-American design professionals, some of them work at HGA, but I had not had the pleasure to meet yet. However, I was not the only one who was surprised by this discovery, the occasion called for a photo opportunity to remember this fact and encourage us to remain in touch.
While the goal was to develop a membership base, I found both gatherings to be not only an incredible welcome for minorities in the design profession but an opportunity to get to know MSP NOMA as a platform for support and empowerment for design professionals. If you'd like to learn more about MSP NOMA or know about future events, visit their website here.