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OUT in FRONT: Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion

OUT in FRONT: Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, is a fresh take on a favorite biannual event by the UW Landscape Architecture Professional Advisory Council. OUT in FRONT is a showcase for local firms to share innovative and exciting design work with students and the larger professional design community. This year’s event encourages professionals to share work that highlights JEDI principles, practices, or inquiries.

From the Dean: January 2023

After adopting our strategic framework nearly two years ago in 2021, the beginning of the year offers us a great opportunity to reflect and celebrate on what we have accomplished so far and where we plan to go. To learn more about our college’s efforts and outcomes towards these goals, please see the strategic plan implementation progress report.

Sweetened beverage taxes produce net economic benefits for lower-income communities

New research from the University of Washington, published June 2 in Food Policy, addressed equity issues surrounding sweetened beverage taxes by examining the economic equity impacts of sweetened beverage taxes in three cities: Seattle, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Philip Hurvitz, affiliate associate professor of urban design and planning is a co-author. | UW News

CBE launches EDIFY event series

EDIFY movie night banner with film strip

Our EDIFY event series was established in spring 2022 by the CBE Diversity Council as a way to explore issues around equity, diversity and inclusion in the built environment, through the lens of creative expression.  Our inaugural event for the CBE community was focused on the medium of short films, featuring a collection centered on the topic of equity, diversity and inclusion in the built environments.  The films were selected to reflect on the theme: “Acknowledging Land: Past, Present, and Future”.  Faculty, staff and students gathered for an evening to screen the shorts together and inspire conversation.

EDIFY was launched and organized by CBE staff members Claudine Manio and Nancy Dragun, in collaboration with UW Cinema & Media Studies lecturer Warren Etheredge.  A veteran film producer and festival programmer, Etheredge … something from Warren about why these films were chosen

Films shown included the following:

(1:58) Baroness von Sketch

(6:03) Seattle Channel

(2:28) Hong Kong University Faculty of Architecture

(17:42) Mark Lopez

(3:00) Hong Kong University Faculty of Architecture

(20:44) Jimmy Goldblum

(3:00) Brodie Kerst / AIA Film Challenge 2021

(6:40) Evan Mather

(2:57) Lahmi Kim / AIA Film Challenge 2021

(13:46) Justyn Ah Chong


Programming was inspired by this question: the University of Washington has a land acknowledgement, but why is land acknowledgement important?

Throughout history, land has been a symbol of power and wealth, oftentimes acquired and developed by displacing those without either. The history, sense of place, and rich culture that took generations to build are dishonored and erased. The UW Land Acknowledgement brings awareness to the longstanding history of the indigenous people of the land on which our university sits. However, land acknowledgement should not exist in the past tense. It is an ongoing process – continuing today and into the future within our city and cities around the world.

Through the series of short films we drew connections between a variety of narratives about land “values”- in our country and abroad. From the stage manager who just wants to get on with the show, to the historian who animates redlining, to the developer reimagining suburban LA, to the Syrian architect tirelessly recreating home, this collection of short films encourages us to reconsider whose land we live on and how we all might become better stewards and better neighbors. Each film serves as a case study which invites us to reflect on the historical, cultural, political, and ecological impacts on land.

Honoring Black History Month – A Message from the CBE Diversity Council

The CBE Diversity Council, made up of Faculty, Staff, and Students, recently shared a message in honor of Black History Month that celebrates the contributions of a few Black scholars and built environment professionals. We invite you to take the time to honor Black History Month and participate in the observance in some way! Read the message below and see a selection of resources shared to help you in your learning about justice, equity, and inclusion.

Dear CBE Community,

As we enter February, we begin the celebration of Black History Month, an annual observance that was first proposed by Black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University in February 1969. This observance was then formally recognized by the US president in 1976, and has been practiced ever since. Now, in 2022, in the face of continued oppression and structural racism, we continue to celebrate Black History Month as a way to honor Black life, voices, history and art and the African diasporic peoples who have built this nation.

We wish to honor the contributions of Black scholars and built environment professionals who have thrived despite racism to help build a better world. We call out a few initiatives that have inspired us, including:

Nehemiah Initiative created to empower the African-American community by to supporting the retention of historically Black institutions by advocating for development of real property assets owned by historically Black institutions

Wa Na Wari – a Seattle Central Area-based non-profit organization that creates space for Black ownership, possibility, and belonging through art, historic preservation, and connection

CBE Black History Highlight

Here we would like to highlight a member of our community, Maisha Barnett, a recent CBE graduate and staff member currently in the role of Assistant to the Associate Deans.  Maisha and her family have had profound and lasting impacts on the City of Seattle and WA State more broadly.  Her great paternal grandfather, John Conna, was head of the first Black family in Tacoma and was recently honored with the City of Federal Way Black History Month Proclamation.  A successful Real Estate Broker, Conna actively recruited African Americans to migrate to the PNW and later became the first Black political appointee in the history of Washington.  In addition, Maisha’s paternal grandfather, Powell Samuel Barnett, was a Seattle-based musician, civil rights activist, and African American community leader.  He was recognized for his work during his life and in 1969 Powell Barnett Park was named for him.  Maisha’s father, Douglas Quinton Barnett, was a Black theater and arts advocate recognized posthumously with Douglas Q. Barnett Street named in his honor in November 2020.  Maisha carries on the legacy and impact that her family has had in Seattle through her work in public space development and service on numerous park boards and commissions.  We are proud to have her as part of our CBE community!

For those interested in learning more around justice, equity, and inclusion, check out the list below, which represents just some of the vast resources on this subject.

Please take the time to honor Black History Month and participate in the observance in some way!

In solidarity,

CBE Diversity Council

*Some of the resources below were pulled from existing sources across campus and we thank the School of Public Health and the Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center, among others, for their work and willingness to share

READ – books, essays, articles, poems

  • Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism, by bell hooks

  • Beloved by Toni Morrison

  • Between the World and Me by Ta Nehisi Coates

  • Black Landscapes Matter by Kofi Boone

  • Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African-Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney

  • Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

  • Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown

  • Gang of Four by Bob Santos

  • Gather the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

  • Heavy by Kiese Layman

  • Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America by R. Eric Thomas

  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and other writings by Maya Angelou

  • Incognegro by Mat Johnson

  • Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing, and Hope by Karamo Brown

  • Kindred by Octavia Butler

  • Letter from Birmingham Jail by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

  • March by John Lewis

  • Miles Morales Spider Man by Jason Reynolds

  • My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem

  • Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

  • Real Life by Brandon Taylor

  • Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches and other works by Audre Lorde

  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

  • Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

  • Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks

  • The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson

  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker

  • The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

  • The Inner Work of Racial Justice by Rhonda V. Magee

  • The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain, and other writings by Langston Hughes

  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

  • The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

  • Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America, by Keisha Blain

  • When Ivory Towers Were Black by Sharon Sutton

  • Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis


LISTEN – music, music videos & podcasts


LOOK – TV, movies, visual art


BUY – Enjoy goods and services from Black-owned businesses


CARE – Mental health & wellbeing resources

College of Built Environments
Diversity Council

Archinect Deans List: Renée Cheng on How Comprehensive Design Can Engender Inclusivity

The Deans List is an interview series with the leaders of architecture schools, worldwide. The series profiles the school’s programming, as defined by the dean — giving an invaluable perspective into the institution’s unique curriculum, faculty and academic environment.

Read entire Q&A on Archinect

For this installment, Archinect spoke with current University of Washington College of Built Environments dean Renée Cheng. A licensed architect with years of experience working at firms like Pei, Cobb, Freed and Partners and her personal practice, Cheng-Olson Design, Cheng has specialized in researching the application of new technologies within the design and construction process while also helping to pioneer innovative project delivery approaches. In our interview, Cheng shares how these approaches can be applied to the wide-ranging curriculum of an integrated design program.


Dean Cheng speaking at a recent Women in Construction symposium in Seattle. Image courtesy of McKinstry.

Briefly describe CBE’s pedagogical stance on architecture education.

The University of Washington’s (UW) Department of Architecture sits within the multidisciplinary College of Built Environments (CBE) that includes the specific disciplines most central to the built environment: architecture, landscape architecture, urban design and planning, construction management, and real estate. The Department of Architecture recently completed a major revision of the professional degree program to further emphasize research, collaboration, and integration. These three themes are reflected in the other departments as well, creating a college with unique disciplinary strengths that can collaborate effectively.

design build
Photo of students participating in a neighborhood design-build studio. Image courtesy of UW CBE.

What insights from your past professional experience are you hoping to integrate or adopt as the dean?

Running my own firm, as well as working in architectural firms large and small, has given me a healthy respect for the hard work it takes to run a firm today, as well as unbounded optimism for how architectural profession can become more relevant, resilient, and equitable.

My research and teaching experience has focused on emerging practices, everything from technologies like parametric design to organizational systems like lean and/or equitable practices.

I’m also interested to see how far we can carry the focus around collaboration, asking what it would mean for all of the faculty, students, and staff to be effective collaborators.

With these experiences in mind, I am applying some practices of inclusion and values-based decision-making to understanding the processes of the college. I’m also interested to see how far we can carry the focus around collaboration, asking what it would mean for all of the faculty, students, and staff to be effective collaborators.

All of this is related to the research practices program that I started at the University of Minnesota. I am in the process of growing that model and network here at the UW with the multiple disciplines of the college. At UW, for example, we are starting an applied research consortium with a group of founding members we hope to announce before the start of the next academic year.

Read the rest on Archinect

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.