The National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021, is partnering with test prep provider Black Spectacles (now also a job platform) to offer highly discounted online educational resources to all of its paying members. Beginning on February 1, NOMA members will have access to a number of innovative study materials at a reduced price, designed to help architects pass all six divisions of NCARB’s Architecture Registration Examination (ARE).
The NOMA-Black Spectacles collaboration comes as the architecture profession faces intense scrutiny over its striking lack of racial diversity—an enduring condition that lays bare a host of underlying equity issues in the licensing process. As AN has previously reported, NCARB’s own data suggests that around 81 percent of those who completed the ARE in 2019 were white.
While diversity in the early stages of professional development has improved steadily in recent years, architects reaching the more advanced levels of professional licensure are still overwhelmingly white. About 89 percent of architects who hold NCARB Certificates, which allow them to apply for reciprocal licensure in all 55 combined U.S. states and territories, identify as white.
Through their partnership, NOMA and Black Spectacles aim to remove some of the barriers that prevent architects of color, and particularly Black architects, from completing the registration process. As of 2018, non-white designers were 25 percent more likely to halt the licensure process than white candidates, and many fault NCARB’s expensive and time-consuming examination procedures for such discrepancies.
In addition to the test preparation materials provided by Black Spectacles, former NOMA president Kimberly Dowdell hopes that the organization’s vast professional networks will provide support to young designers pursuing licensure: “We encourage our licensure candidates to form study groups and help one another while tapping into the resources that NOMA has to offer, both formally and informally, via mentorship.”
For Black Spectacles founder Marc Teer, FAIA, the partnership marks one step in a long-standing effort to “democratize the learning process” while “fostering an inclusive future” for the architecture industry. If the resource push is successful, NOMA and Black Spectacles may help the American Institute of Architects (AIA) achieve its goal of doubling the number of registered Black architects by 2030.