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Hines College Student Organizations You Should Know: National Organization of Minority Architecture Students

Committed to diversity and representation in the profession

by Nicholas Nguyen • February 28, 2024

As the student chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), UH NOMAS has built a community at the Hines College to empower students who are underrepresented in architecture. While the field is slowly diversifying with new licensed architects, according to a 2023 report from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), Black architects still only make up 3% of the job population. Hispanic or Latino architects come in at 10%, followed by Asian architects at 15%.

While there are many factors at play in why diversification of the occupation is slow, UH NOMAS aims to provide students from minority backgrounds with resources and opportunities to advance their careers before they even graduate. We spoke with leaders of the student organization to learn more about their mission and efforts to close the gap.

When and why was UH NOMAS founded?
Esther Umoh, President:
UH NOMAS was re-founded in 2017 to give minority students a chance to showcase their work and connect with local professionals.

What is UH NOMAS’s mission?
EU:
Our organization’s mission is to advocate for diversity within the design professions by fostering excellence, community engagement, and professional development among members. For students, NOMAS serves as an active and vocal community dedicated to supporting and empowering underrepresented students of color and minority communities.

above: UH NOMAS GIVES MEMBERS THE OPPORTUNITY TO VIST CONSTRUCTION SITES AND GO ON FIRM TOURS TO MEET WITH INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS

What is your perspective as a minority in architecture and design?
Tessnim Mohammed, Vice-President: As minorities in the field of architecture, our challenges include underrepresentation. This underrepresentation makes it difficult for students to feel motivated and comfortable seeking assistance. Both professionally and academically, the percentage of architects who are minorities is significantly low.

UH NOMAS establishes a safe space for individuals with similar backgrounds, creating an environment where students can learn from those who have achieved significant milestones. Our group serves as a source of motivation and support while providing opportunities for students to succeed.

How do you bring awareness to UH NOMAS on campus?
TM:
UH NOMAS consistently engaged with faculty at the Hines College. We actively maintain our presence on social media, sharing information about upcoming events and useful tips for students. Our dedicated efforts have not gone unnoticed. We have observed a growing level of support from faculty and increased attendance at our events.

In what ways does UH NOMAS collaborate with internal and external organizations?
EU:
Internally, NOMAS collaborates with other clubs, such as Future Women in Architecture and Black Students in Design, to organize and host larger events, drawing in a more substantial turnout. These collaborations have expanded our membership and enhanced our networking opportunities.

Externally, UH NOMAS is an integral part of the larger NOMA organization. We collaborate with our parent organization in hosting events. We give students the opportunity to come to Houston NOMA (HNOMA) events, connect with professionals, and see what the organization is all about. We actively participate in district events bringing together NOMAS chapters from various universities. Our external engagements include mixers, game nights, and other gatherings.

How does UH NOMAS prepare students for the profession?
Collin Trevino, Professional Development Chair:
UHNOMAS provides an array of valuable opportunities for students to prepare for their future careers. Our organization hosts portfolio reviews, resume-building sessions, and networking mixers, allowing members to receive professional advice and support. These events facilitate open and informative discussions, enabling students to benefit from one-on-one mentorship. As a result, members have successfully secured interviews and internships, laying the groundwork for long-term career opportunities. We also connect stu

above: THE GROUP ALSO HOSTS EVENTS LIKE PORTFOLIO REVIEWS AND RESUME WORKSHOPS WITH PROFESSIONALS TO PREPARE STUDENTS FOR JOB SEARCHES; ALUMNI OFTEN RETURN TO THE COLLEGE TO SPEAK WITH MEMBERS

Why should people join UH NOMAS?
Andrea Hatter, Graduate Liaison: People should consider joining UH NOMAS due to its unwavering commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion within the architecture profession. UH NOMAS is a valuable organization for students to connect with professionals and students who share similar backgrounds and experiences.

Membership opens doors to workshops, professional development opportunities, national conferences, and internship opportunities. Beyond the professional benefits, joining us means becoming part of a supportive family dedicated to fostering your academic, professional, and personal growth.

What kinds of events does UH NOMAS host?
TM: Outside of professional development and networking events, we also do firm tours and panels with professionals. We celebrate and commemorate significant and key months for civil rights and different cultural heritage months, tying in topics related to our field.

What is the organization most proud of in recent years?
EU: We are proud of past leaders who have left an indelible mark on our chapter and have significantly influenced the College itself. This was felt strongly during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic when our chapter, alongside other organizations, took a stance on diversity, equity, and inclusion, reflecting the values of the College community as a whole.

We are also proud of connecting and collaborating with our parent organizations and reaching out to other NOMAS chapters in Houston to celebrate historical months. NOMAS takes pride in its active participation in professional initiatives. Our organization hosts professionals who share real-world insights and experiences post-graduation with our members. For instance, Melvalean McLemore (’09), the 16th Black woman licensed as an architect, visited to share her journey in the professional world and addressed questions students had.

List of current officers:

  • Esther Umoh, President
  • Tessnim Mohammed, Vice President
  • Ashley Espinoza, Treasurer
  • Collin Trevino, Professional Development Chair
  • Erada Zeynu, Public Relations Chair
  • Nicole Tran, Graphic Design Chair
  • Andrea Hatter, Graduate Liaison
  • Elvia Delgado, Communications Chair

Contact information:

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