Woodbury Mentorship Program Wins 2020 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award

National Recognition of Programs That Are Making a Difference for All Underrepresented Groups in the Fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)

Woodbury School of Architecture’s mentorship program with the STEM Academy of Hollywood has been named a recipient of INSIGHT Into Diversity’s 2020 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award. Featured in the magazine’s September issue, the mentorship program was recognized for encouraging and inspiring a new generation of young people to consider careers in architecture, as well as increasing underrepresented student access and success in STEM education and careers.

In 2019, Woodbury partnered with the STEM Academy of Hollywood, a local Los Angeles high school, to launch a mentorship program for students from underrepresented backgrounds. INSIGHT Into Diversity selected the Woodbury & STEM Academy of Hollywood program for pairing high school students with university alumni to participate in a series of events, activities and round-tables designed to cultivate an interest in the field and provide an understanding of the paths to becoming a professional architect. The team’s goal was to give students greater insight into careers in architecture, and to help them build connections to the profession while providing a way for alumni to give back.

STEM Hollywood Students and Parents with Woodbury alumni and program directors Heather Flood and Catherine Roussel at the STEM Academy Parent Orientation

The mentorship program covered a range of issues, from affordable housing and sustainability to emerging technologies and digital fabrication tools. Heather Flood, Chair of Woodbury’s architecture program in Los Angeles, worked with Catherine Roussel, Woodbury School of Architecture’s Director of Outreach, to develop the mentorship program between Woodbury University alumni and STEM Hollywood Academy students. Roussel touched on the contributions of alumni, saying that “I would especially like to recognize our mentors who dedicated time to share their knowledge and experience. We could not have had a successful program without our mentors and students at STEM Academy who have big dreams for the future. We want to help them see their career paths going forward.”

As the magazine notes, underrepresented professionals who work in STEM fields enjoy significant opportunities to engage in new discoveries and innovations on a global scale. To advance diversity, promote equality, and build a stronger U.S. workforce, INSIGHT recognizes the importance of increasing the number of people from underrepresented groups entering the STEM professions. Colleges and universities have the opportunity to accomplish this through innovative programs and initiatives for current and future students.

Program co-director Heather Flood said that, “We created this program to ensure that students from diverse backgrounds feel empowered to pursue their passion in design and to recognize the value that diverse perspectives brings to the profession of architecture. As educators, we are gatekeepers, and at Woodbury that responsibility is viewed as an opportunity to broaden participation in higher education and to facilitate professional success.”

High School Mentees at the Woodbury Digital Fabrication Workshop taught by alumni Anali Gharakhani

“We know that many STEM programs are not always recognized for their success, dedication, and mentorship for underrepresented students,” says Lenore Pearlstein, owner and publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “We want to honor the schools and organizations that have created programs that inspire and encourage young people who may currently be in or are interested in a future career in STEM. We are proud to honor these programs as role models to other institutions of higher education and beyond.”

A majority minority institution, Woodbury University’s core mission is access and transformation through education. Advocating that good design is a human right, the School of Architecture produces graduates who affirm the power of good design to improve the built environment and the lives of others. Embracing this partnership as part of its vision of shaping the future of practice, the School of Architecture aims to empower high school students through inspired and high-impact learning initiatives.

Woodbury School of Architecture Dean Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter explained how programs like these can create change for the profession. “This program grew out of a partnership initiative between AIA|LA and LAUSD to introduce more students to careers in architecture and design. With inspiring programs like this one, our creative team of brilliant design educators – with Woodbury’s Architecture Chair Heather Flood, Director of Outreach Catherine Roussel, Principal Esther Dabagyan from STEM Academy, and our inspiring alumni mentors – is enacting transformative change, one student at a time. We are proud of the impact this program will have on the future lives of our students.”

A call for nominations for this award was announced in April 2020. Inspiring Programs in STEM Award winners were selected by INSIGHT Into Diversity based on efforts to inspire young people to consider careers in STEM through mentoring, teaching, research, and successful programs and initiatives. Find out more about the award-winning INSIGHT Into Diversity programs online.

Woodbury is currently looking for 6-8 new mentors (alumni) for the program this year. If interested, please contact Catherine M. Roussel, AIA for further information.


About INSIGHT Into Diversity  

INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine is the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education today and is known for its annual INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award, the only award that recognizes colleges and universities for outstanding diversity and inclusion efforts across their campuses. INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine presents news and feature stories on matters of diversity and inclusion in higher education and beyond. Articles include interviews with innovators and experts, as well as explorations of best practices and profiles of exemplary programs.

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