AIA elects Kimberly Dowdell as its first Black woman president

100th President

AIA elects Kimberly Dowdell as its first Black woman president

Kimberly Dowdell (Courtesy AIA)

Kimberly Dowdell has been elected as the 100th president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), making history as the first Black woman to hold the position. Dowdell was elected by delegates at the virtual 2022 AIA Annual Meeting held on June 9; her one-year tenure as president begins in 2024 and starting next year she will serve as the 2023 AIA First Vice President/2024 President-elect.

Dowdell studied at Cornell University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture in 2006. While at Cornell, she co-founded Social Economic Environmental Design (SEED), an initiative dedicated to setting standards for economic, social, and environmental justice around the world. She has since dedicated her career to issues concerning environmental justice, while also promoting diversity and equality within the profession and at local scales.

Dowdell went on to receive a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University in 2015 and currently works as marketing principal at HOK Architects in her hometown of Chicago. At HOK, she established HOK IMPACT, a social responsibility program offering employees opportunities to volunteer within their local communities.

Additionally, Dowdell sits on the board of directors at the Architect’s Foundation, the charitable arm of the AIA. She has deep roots in her native Chicago and serves as a board member for several Windy City organizations, working toward enhancing equal access to education and the arts. From 2019-2020, Dowdell served on the Equity and the Future of Architecture Committee, an assembly set up by the AIA in 2017 to promote and advocate for diversity and inclusion within the profession and in 2020 was awarded a Young Architects Award by the AIA for her exceptional leadership and professional advancement.

Dowdell is also a past president (2019–2020) of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), where she started #AllinforNOMA—an initiative focused on making minorities “visible” and building “greater access, leadership and legacy opportunities for ALL.”

In her role as AIA President, Dowdell will continue to represent minority architects. She will also dedicate her time to making architecture more accessible, taking action against climate change, and promoting the use of technology.

“As the 295th living Black woman to earn an architectural license in the U.S., I am keen to help young women and people of color,” Dowdell said in a statement published by the AIA.

Dowdell will be inaugurated as the First Vice President of the AIA in early 2023, replacing the current First VP Emily Grandstaff-Rice, who will move on to become the organization’s president for 2023, replacing current president Dan Hart. At its annual meeting the AIA also appointed Britt Lindberg as 2023-2024 Secretary and Illya Azaroff as 2023-2025 At-large Director.