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Dean’s Dialogue Update

CBE Colleagues,

Firstly let me apologize for neglecting to bring the Minnesota snow infrastructure with me when I brought the Minnesota weather! I hope you are all managing with the disruptions and that we will get back into the swing of things soon.

Secondly, I have a few short updates to share with you on the Dean’s Dialogue process:

-The report from the survey and interviews has been delayed due to a family emergency which is resolving but has put Julius behind his schedule for our work. We believe the report will be ready by beginning of next week, thank you for your patience and understanding.

– We have tentatively planned to have Trevor return March 7/8 to help me conduct the external stakeholder focused part of the Dean’s Dialogue. This will primarily be through the Professional Advisory Committees and key partners in the community. Edgar and Keisha are helping to coordinate, so please let them know if you have suggestions on the invitation list.
– Trevor will also help consult with the communications efforts that have been ongoing, updated in my previous email.

-we are tentatively planning to have Julius return on March 13/14 or 14/15 to help build from the listening + learning towards planning. This will likely be focused around what would be effective ways to discuss mission/vision/values (just as a reminder, his expertise is on process, you all are the experts on content).
– I’m also asking him to offer insights on strategic approaches to equity, diversity and inclusion efforts and provide advice and feedback on how we might use our efforts to have greatest impact.
– He will also present material on the intercultural developmental inventory so we can plan future training and assessments, looking at how it might fit (or not) with training already done and with others that UW has found to be effective.

-My office hours will continue (look for announcements from Susanne Adamson ) but I will be reducing from 4 hours per week to 2 for the next few weeks so I can have time to see more of the classes and studios in action. Feel free to stop me and chat if you see me wandering around your spaces, or if there are particularly productive (and/or less disruptive) times for me to swing by, please advise Susanne.

-Not directly related to the Dean’s Dialogue, but something where the outcomes will be discussed: we are preparing for the CBE stop on the “Provost’s Walking Tour” where he has been visiting each of the colleges for 2-3 hours to better understand our opportunities and challenges. This is not a showcase, he particularly pointed out that he is quite familiar with all the great things we do and would like to hear more about what we hope to do and any obstacles or challenges we face. While we will be unable to tour him through very aspect of the college, we may be asking for a sample of studios, classrooms or other spaces to have examples of work posted or faculty or students available to talk about work. More information will be coming soon. His visit is Wednesday 2/27 in the afternoon, timing and agenda TBD.

Thanks everyone for your grace and resilience under difficult conditions!


p.s. if you are wishing for a bit of help achieving more grace and resilience, HERE is a resource on teaching strategies and tips for working with unexpectedly shortened class times.


Building equity: A talk with Renée Cheng, new dean of the UW College of Built Environments

Renée Cheng comes to the University of Washington from the University of Minnesota, where she was professor and associate dean of its school of architecture and design. A licensed architect, Cheng is a leader in the American Institute of Architects and advocates for equity in the architecture field and practices related to the built environment. She joined the UW on Jan. 1.

Cheng answered questions about the college and her new role for UW News.

What is it about the College of Built Environments, the UW and the Seattle area — with its many challenges — that attracted you?

It was actually those challenges — particularly around housing and homelessness — that attracted me, especially because the College of Built Environments has a real chance to have an impact on an urgent societal issue. It goes without saying that housing and homelessness is incredibly important, but we also know that it’s not the only “wicked problem” or grand challenge facing us. It’s clear to me that the college can establish a method or approach to contribute positively to the dialogue and lead where we are best suited to do so.

You’ve had an interesting career path, starting your education with pre-med in mind, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology and social relations, and then a master’s in architecture — and founding your own firm. How do these diverse experiences help inform your work?

It’s easier to see now in hindsight, but all my choices have been based in trying to make a difference in the world through action and to take those actions with respect for humanity. I try to have my actions — whether they are large or small scale, on my own or with others — to be the best: with care, integrity and beauty.

What are some of your priorities coming in as dean, both in the short and longer term?

I’m fortunate to come at a time when our college, students and faculty are very strong. I’m not starting with a blank page, instead I’m helping add a chapter to a wonderful book. My first step is to speed-read that book to catch up with everyone else who understands it so well. That content includes internal college matters but also its partners, alumni and community as well as its past history and context.

Moving forward, I would love to amplify and enhance the college’s contributions to advancing solutions to our most intractable problems that involve or include the built environments. I think most people know that College of Built Environments disciplines are good at looking to the future and designing beautiful places, but its even more than that: The college has great visionaries and designers, but they work with historians who know that the future is in the context of the past, and with scholars who understand the policy and financial models that shape the parameters in direct dialogue with designers. In the ideal world, faculty and students from our disciplines respect the distinct differences and find ways to work effectively to impact society.

In Seattle as in Minneapolis — where you headed the University of Minnesota School of Architecture / College of Design — there is a great focus on homelessness, housing affordability and density in communities. How can the college contribute to conversations on these topics and pursue solutions?

Housing, homelessness, affordability and density involve some of the most difficult issues in society and there needs to be a diverse set of skills and great depth of information brought to bear to make progress. Lots of good ideas with many insights and resources are needed to have constructive dialogue.

The college offers a great platform for multidisciplinary collaboration including a coalition of academic experts, students, communities, public and private institutions. In addition to providing the space for productive dialogue, we are able to envision scenarios and we are comfortable with holding open multiple parallel options simultaneously. This lateral thought process, sometimes called “design thinking,” can be incredibly powerful to define and solve complex layered problems.

Coming decades will bring continued environmental challenges such as rising seas, warming temperatures and extreme weather. Innovation is bringing driverless cars, the proliferation of drones and more. How might — how must — the built environment world respond?

The built environment has already adapted, not always in positive ways, to changes in climate and technology. Changing in a positive way is the key.

We also need to realize that we don’t just react to those forces of change, we have a responsibility to attend to the social justice implications of environments. Change will happen, it’s guaranteed. Positive change is not guaranteed, it will take concerted efforts by colleges like ours to define, nudge, cajole and lead.

You are an advocate for equity in the built environment professions and recently led the research effort for the American Institute of Architecture’s guides for equitable practice in the workplace. How will this inform your leadership in the college?

You asked earlier about my background; I think in many ways I’ve come full circle to my focus on human interaction and relationships. Practicing equity and inclusion have shown me that bridging across differences — cultural, gender, disciplinary — is at the heart of so many things I care about. It has also taught me that we learn through taking risks and making mistakes.

I love that the UW has been such a leader in equity, diversity and inclusion. President Cauce has set such a great example in her aspirational yet grounded approach, and she has well defined values that are clear and shared among the deans. It’s impressive and exciting to be adding to this mix that which I have learned about equity in the practice of architecture.

Originally posted on UW News. Questions by Peter Kelley of UW News and Kailey Waring of the College of Built Environments.

Update from Renée on Dean’s Dialogue

Hello CBE community,

I have very much enjoyed my first two weeks, thank you again for your warm welcome and your patience as I get used to my new role and new context.
I don’t know yet what is the best communication style and pace for reaching you all but for today I wanted to send an update to the Dean’s Dialogue that was started last week.
  •  I have weekly open office hours, Susanne will announce early in the week
  • A forum of student leaders will be convened on Wednesday next week, we will use a slightly different version of the instant polling – hoping the attraction of pizza and a chance to be on their phones for an hour will draw a nice group of student leaders. If you would like to nominate a student to participate, please let Meegan know.
  • Professional outreach will be next week and week following, more information to come
  • Since it was a priority of my candidacy and has been rising to the top as an important theme, I’m starting planning for how CBE can take a strategic approach to increase equity, diversity and inclusion. There have been great efforts and enormous good will so far and CBE is ready to move with purpose and clear intent. These efforts can and should be done with help and in partnership while also building on the wonderful assets and efforts already in place. I’m exploring options and more will be coming soon, but plan for some events in mid March and possibly again in June.
Please remember to fill out the survey, link is HERE
If you have started the survey and saved it, or if you have not yet done it, please set a reminder to wrap and submit before Friday January 25. This is a very important part of the report that Julius is preparing, and a high participation rate would make it even more valuable.
Thank you and enjoy the long weekend honoring MLK!

Message to CBE faculty, staff and students from Dean Cheng


I’m thrilled to be here for the start of a new year in my new role in the CBE community! Thank you so much for the warm welcomes I’ve received and thanks also for your patience during the long transition time. In particular I would like to thank former Dean John Schaufelberger for his stewardship of the college and for being such a great partner during our leadership transition.
As you might have heard, I’m starting “a dean’s dialogue” for listening, learning and planning our future. These events will be unfolding over the next few quarters in a variety of formats and settings. I hope to reach everyone in the CBE community in whatever way works best for all of us. Your insights are invaluable to help me understand CBE’s activities, needs, potential and most importantly, its culture.
When my schedule becomes more clear, I will be setting up regular office hours in addition to other forums. But please also feel free to email me and/or invite me to any events or classes you would like me to see!
Thank you again for all your support and I’m very excited to be working with you as we move onward to CBE’s next opportunities!

$250,000 gift from NBBJ to the UW College of Built Environments will advance applied research in the built environment

NBBJ – a global architecture, planning and design firm – will donate a quarter of a million dollars to establish a ground breaking partnership with the University of Washington’s (UW) College of Built Environments (CBE). The gift will forge multiple relationships over many years, touching faculty, students and researchers who advance knowledge of our understanding of how the built environment positively affects human health and wellbeing.

The partnership will strive to translate basic research into action, create innovative solutions to design problems, and engage the next generation of leaders through the teaching and research at CBE and across the University of Washington. CBE dean Renée Cheng, FAIA, says partnerships like the one between NBBJ and the CBE are essential to define and identify solutions to the grand challenges of the 21st century.

“Connecting the knowledge loop between practices and academy is key towards ensuring our buildings foster and nurture human health. Partnerships between a leading design firm like NBBJ with a leading multidisciplinary college like ours will accelerate the impact of our research, directly benefiting our industry, our communities and society. While our initial focus will be on human health, we see this as a model for collaborative, complementary and applied research that this college can and will use to address the most urgent issues of our society – from finding smarter ways to deal with carbon to increasing affordable housing and addressing homelessness,” said Cheng.

“The built environment is a powerful tool to provoke change, and is inextricably linked to positive health outcomes,” said NBBJ Managing Partner Steve McConnell, FAIA. “The partnership between NBBJ and UW will advance the next generation of research related to design and health by anchoring it more deeply in project work and sharing it more broadly across competitive boundaries. Our entire industry – and ultimately our clients and the community at large – will benefit from its impact.”

NBBJ will engage with students and faculty from the CBE and across health sciences at the UW. The specifics of the multi-year partnership will evolve organically but it will engage faculty, students and practitioners in activities such as projects, studios, seminars, charrettes and symposia.

About NBBJ

NBBJ creates innovative places and experiences for organizations worldwide and designs environments, communities and buildings that enhance people’s lives. Founded in 1943, NBBJ is an industry leader in designing corporate office, healthcare, commercial, civic, science, education and sports facilities. The firm has won numerous awards and has been recognized as the world’s “Most Innovative Architecture Firm” by Fast Company magazine. The firm has a history of spearheading innovative partnerships that provide benefit beyond its walls — including the creation of VR start-up Visual Vocal, the formation of NBBJ’s Fellowship program focused on neuroscience research, and a collaboration with Time Inc. to “hack” the future of work. Clients include Alibaba, Amazon, Beacon Capital Partners, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Boeing, Cambridge University, Cleveland Clinic, GlaxoSmithKline, Massachusetts General Hospital, Microsoft, Reebok, Salk Institute, Samsung, Stanford University, Starbucks, Tencent and Tishman Speyer. (
Contact: Daniel Skiffington,

About the College of Built Environments

The UW’s College of Built Environments (CBE) is one of a few institutions where Architecture, Urban Planning, Landscape Architecture, Construction Management, and Real Estate come together under one roof. The CBE has three foci which are professional practice, public service, and research and each serve the College, University, and community in profound ways. Its mission is to teach students to be skilled practitioners and strong collaborators, who are conscious of the natural environment and cultures they serve. (
Contact: Kailey Waring,

UPDATED: AIA “Guides for Equitable Practice” now publicly available


The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has publicly released “Guides for Equitable Practice.”

Download the Guides

WASHINGTON – Nov. 29, 2018 – The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the University of Minnesota are helping shape architecture firm culture by releasing the first three chapters of the “Guides for Equitable Practice” to AIA members today.

AIA sponsored the development of the guides to help educate architects and firms on best practices for equity, diversity and inclusion principles and to provide strategies for incorporating the values into architectural practice.

“Everyday, architects solve critical challenges in society through design and advocacy of the built environment,” said AIA Equity and the Future of Architecture Committee Chair Emily Grandstaff-Rice, FAIA. “We know there’s more work to be done to shape the profession to be more equitable and accessible. These guides frame the conversation and provide actionable items for individuals, firms and allies. Achieving this vision has a direct impact on the relevance of our profession and our work.”

The guides were developed using current research on gender, race and culture in the U.S. and perspectives from architects on what equity, diversity and inclusion mean.

Topics included in the first three chapters of guides explore intercultural competence, workplace culture and compensation within firms. Subsequent sets—both due next year—will address career progression, talent recruitment, leadership development and community engagement.

“The guides provide tangible steps for increasing the intercultural skills of the profession and for creating robust and healthy workplace cultures in our firms,” said Renée Cheng, FAIA, who was recently named Dean at the University of Washington’s College of Built Environments. “It was an honor for our team at the University of Minnesota to be selected to author them.”

The guides are one component of the AIA’s broad commitment to overcome inequities and advance the profession. In 2015, AIA formed the Equity in Architecture Commission to address broader concerns about disproportionate demographics in the profession. The development of the guides was one of the Commission’s eleven recommendations adopted by the AIA’s Board of Directors.

In 2017, the commission’s work was assumed by the AIA Equity and the Future of Architecture Committee. The committee is tasked with helping implement the commission’s recommendations and tackling other equity, diversity, inclusion and workforce issues.

In addition to the ongoing development of the guides, the committee is also making two anti-harassment training videos available to all AIA members.

“There’s an opportunity for architects and firms to create a more inclusive and welcoming culture,” said AIA 2018 President Carl Elefante, FAIA. “Architects have a duty to be socially aware and social entrepreneurs. It’s up to each of us to do our part to make the profession attractive and available to all people.”

“Guides for Equitable Practice” can be accessed by AIA members through their AIA accounts online. The guides will be available to the public early next year. Members of the media can request a copy of the guides by emailing

About AIA

Founded in 1857, AIA consistently works to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through more than 200 international, state and local chapters, AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public wellbeing.

AIA provides members with tools and resources to assist them in their careers and business as well as engaging civic and government leaders and the public to find solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation, and world. Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards.

Renée Cheng named dean of the College of Built Environments

Renée Cheng, FAIA has been named dean of the College of Built Environments. Her appointment is set to begin Jan. 1, 2019. John Schaufelberger will continue in his role as dean until December 31, 2018.

Portrait of Renee Cheng

“The College of Built Environments is a unique collection of disciplines that together, have unparalleled access to, and impact on, the lives and well-being of each and every community around the globe,” Cheng said. “I am honored and excited to join the College of Built Environments and work with new and existing partners, in the greater Seattle area and elsewhere, to collectively make the greatest positive impact.”

Cheng is professor and associate dean of research at the University of Minnesota, where she has developed award-winning curricula and recently has been directing an innovative graduate program linking research with practice and licensure. Cheng has been honored twice as one of the top 25 most admired design educators in the United States by DesignIntelligence, an organization that ranks architecture and design schools across the country.

A licensed architect, Cheng is a leader in the American Institute of Architects and advocates for equity in the field of architecture and more broadly in the practices related to the built environment. Professor Cheng has pioneered research surrounding the intersection of design and emerging technologies, including work on industry adoption of Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Lean. Her case study reports are actively used by industry and policy leaders adopting new practices. She has been a core leader for teams of experts writing industry guides for such varied topics as leading IPD projects and best integration practices to achieve high performing buildings. Professor Cheng served as the inaugural chair of the Lean Construction Institute Research Committee and regularly advises the U.S. General Services Administration on issues of high performing buildings and collaborative teams.

Cheng earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and social relations from Harvard University. She went on to receive a professional degree in architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design. After academic appointments at the University of Michigan and University of Arizona, Cheng joined the University of Minnesota in 2001, serving first as head of the School of Architecture and later as associate dean for research for the College of Design.

More to come soon! Keep checking back for more on Renée Cheng and her work with the College of Built Environments.