2020 Architecture Research Forum Focuses on Equity

Excitement surrounding undergraduates’ return to in-person instruction the week of September 6 was complemented by the highly anticipated 2020 School of Architecture Student Research Forum, which was held via Zoom on the evenings of Tuesday, September 8 and Thursday, September 10, 2020.

Like much of this semester, the annual event went virtual this year with a theme of Equity in Architecture. Presentations focused on research that engages with the role of architecture and urban design in supporting communities and building equity. Topics of discussion included engaging with cultural identity, equity in housing and urban design, community, and preservation.

Fifth-year students Mary Rzepczynski ‘21 and Esteban Salazar ‘21 organized the Forum with Professor Krupali Krusche, Associate Dean for Research, Scholarship, and Creative Work and Caroline Maloney, the Academic Advising and Research Program Director.

“When Krupali suggested that Esteban and I develop a theme for the event, we considered a number of options,” said Rzepczynski. “We selected Equity in Architecture as part of the University's commitment to the greater good. One thing that separates Notre Dame from many peer institutions is the desire of the student body to do more with our education and to work for the greater good of the world. The School of Architecture is no exception to this motivation, and I think the idea of how to use our training in architecture and urbanism to help people is something on many students’ minds.”

The first evening of the Research Forum program included a series of “TED Talk”-style presentations by external speakers on topics related to the theme. After each external speaker completed his/her 10-15 minute talk, a student speaker was invited to present his/her own relevant research, and then pose a few questions to the external speaker to foster dialogue in a dynamic way. 

Brandon Davis ‘21, for example, was paired with Rona Reodica ‘01 because of his involvement in housing research projects. Reodica did a Fulbright in the Philippines, and she brings that experience to bear in her work on New York City public housing. This intersection of interests made for an engaging dialogue between the two.

“I was immediately interested in the Forum opportunity based on the student organizer's description of the speaker I was paired to work with,” said Davis. “Rona and I quickly learned we shared many of the same attitudes towards housing and how we each navigated our times at ND to work towards our career goals.”

Tuesday evening’s presentation schedule, speaker pairings, and presentation topics were as follows:

5:00 - 5:20 PM

Welcome and introduction by Research Cochairs
Opening Remarks by Dean Polyzoides

5:20 - 5:45 PM

Urbanism and Equity, Karen Parolek (B.ARCH ‘95)
In conversation with Taylor Schmidt ‘21

5:50 - 6:15

Urban Resilience (Sameh Wahba, Ph.D.)
In conversation with Patrick Vercio ‘21

6:20 - 6:45

Cultural and Ecological Preservation (Catalina Toro-Perez, Pd.D.)
In conversation with Ben Cook ‘21

6:50 - 7:15

Equitable Housing (Rona Reodica, B.ARCH ‘01)
In conversation with Brandon Davis ‘21

7:20 - 7:45

Identity and Architecture (Karamia Müller, Ph.D.)
In conversation with Tia Williams ‘21

7:45 - 8:00

Closing Remarks and Discussion

The second half of the Research Forum was the Research Workshop, which took place Thursday evening. Whereas Tuesday’s presentations were outward facing, the Workshop was inward-looking in its emphasis on University support for student research.

The Workshop introduced students to the various entities on campus that support student research, such as CUSE and the Kellogg, Liu, and Nanovic Institutes. The session focused on grant funding and other support mechanisms students can apply for to support their research. The Workshop also focused on techniques of research proposal- and grant-writing, including input from current students and faculty based on personal examples of winning applications.

The Workshop was successful in informing students of the various University resources available to them for conducting research, and Tuesday evening’s presentations demonstrated just what that research can look like. 

“Credit goes to student leaders Mary Rzepczynski and Esteban Salazar for selecting this year's theme,” said Maloney. “We are in an urgent moment of reckoning with our country's history of structural racism and violence. At the same time, climate change threatens most immediately and severely the poorest and most marginalized among us. Our students are eager to engage with broad issues around equity, especially as they relate to design—from affordable housing to community identity and beyond. The Research Forum presented an opportunity to learn about how research can be applied to professional practice, the building industry, and public policy to ultimately improve equity, justice, and community-building in our shared built environment.”

Videos of the talks from the Forum are available for viewing here.

Originally published by Evan Vandermeer at architecture.nd.edu on December 14, 2020.