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Civic Impact

CMU's UDream: Promoting diversity within the city's architecture and urban design community

After a successful inaugural year, CMU's UDream (Urban Design Regional Employment Action for Minorities) program is gearing up for a second round. The program, which seeks to retain talented architects and designers here in Pittsburgh and encourage diversity within the architecture/urban design profession nationwide, received twice the number of applicants compared with last year.

Those 22 applicants all recent graduates with architecture, urban design or planning degrees will soon learn which 7 have been chosen for an immersive 18-week program of internship and networking at leading firms here in Pittsburgh. The program is slated to begin July 19.

The applicant pool is impressive, says program coordinator Kelly Lyons. "Last year, all of our participants had architecture backgrounds. This year the applicants range from architecture to interior design to landscape architects, a couple with planning degrees and environmental design," she says. Also, "we're excited that our applicant base is more diverse than last year. Last year all participants were African American, but this year there are several applicants who self-identify as Latino or Mexican, and several who self-identify as South Asian."

All of the firms that hosted interns last year have renewed their commitment, and another (Evolve Architecture) has joined the list. "Everybody had a very positive experience" last year, Lyons says. Building on that success, the program has been extended by one week and organizers are adding more opportunities for networking. The process of matching interns with host companies has also been refined and expanded.

Tuition, stipend, housing and travel for program participants is fully funded by the Heinz Endowments, says Lyons, and that commitment extends through next year and possibly beyond.

Two out of seven students from last year's group were offered full-time jobs with Pittsburgh firms and chose to stay. The hope is that even more participants from this year's group will do the same. 

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Writer: Melissa Rayworth
Source: Kelly Lyons, CMU/UDream
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