Easing the Path
to a More Diverse Profession:
Announcing the Fellows
Fund for Equity Grant


MAF is pleased to announce the Fellows Fund for Equity (F2E), a new grant for newly licensed Black, Hispanic, Native American (and individuals from other underrepresented groups) architects who are actively practicing architecture. The grant is intended to help reduce their remaining student debt and/or as reimbursement for expenses associated with architectural licensing exams, while rewarding performance, creativity, and perseverance.

The F2E grant is sponsored by the Michigan AIA (American Institute of Architects) College of Fellows, and administered by the Michigan Architectural Foundation. “We were very impressed how MAF manages its various scholarships and are pleased they are willing to host this grant program,” said Elisabeth (Lis) Knibbe, FAIA, Chair, Fellows Fund for Equity Grant Committee.

In addition to monetary assistance, the one-time grant includes a year of mentorship with a Michigan-based member of the AIA College of Fellows, with the goal of creating access to career and resume-enhancing opportunities.

“There were two inspirations behind creating the grant program,” said Lis. “First, I spent many years doing projects in Detroit and interacting with a lot of talented African-American architects, and watched them struggle. AIA did a study on the level of debt architecture students carry post-graduation, showing it higher overall for minority students.  An NCARB study examined the path to professional licensure. While the licensing process is challenging in general, the study showed the challenges are experienced more strongly by minority groups, and African-Americans in particular.”

“The second was being a female architect, and often the only one in the room,” said Lis. “There were times when I know my being there made subtle differences, and not-so-subtle differences, that resulted in better design for everybody. My own experiences made me really appreciate and understand the value of diversity and the value that diverse perspectives bring to the profession.” Lis, now retired from architectural practice, specialized in the adaptive use of historic buildings.

Lis adds, “So the timing was right, and the need documented, for the F2E grant. Architect Saundra Little, who is very active in the leadership of NOMA (the National Association of Minority Architects) pointed me to an AIA New York City grant program that helps architects pay student debt, which became the model for the AIA Michigan program. Our grant criteria include that applicants must be a member of an underrepresented group within the profession and be within two years of having received their first architectural license from Michigan. The grant intends to recognize the persistence licensure takes, and to assist young architects who have leadership potential to move up through the profession.”

The F2E grant is $4,000, and awarded once annually. Award applications and materials are due via email by September 15 of the award year.  Find out more about the F2E grant, including full grant criteria, and download the grant application.

“For me architecture was an incredibly rewarding career,” said Lis. “Being active on the AIA Michigan Fellows committee has given me a real appreciation for the variety of careers that are possible within the profession and the many ways that architects can have positive impacts on our society. Through this grant the AIA Fellows are encouraging young people from a variety of backgrounds to enter the profession, and to follow their dreams which will in turn make the profession stronger and better able to serve our ever-changing society.”