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Sunday, June 5, 2022

Meet the First Black Woman Architect to Earn a Doctorate Degree From the Univ. of Hawaii

Danielle McCleave

Natiownide — Danielle McCleave has made history as the first Black woman to earn a Doctorate degree in Architecture from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa School of Architecture.

“When I first found out I would be the first Black woman to obtain this degree, I was hit with a variety of emotions. I was excited to be in this position of trailblazing, and I knew it would be encouraging for other Black women looking to get into design,” McCleave said, according to the University of Hawaii News.

While Danielle was proud of her accomplishment, she was also partly saddened that in 2022, she was yet the first and only one. Her degree serves as a milestone within the industry where out of 116,242 architects in the US, only 2% are Black architects and 0.4% are Black females.

“We have learned time and time again that representation matters, and how important it is to be able to see yourself in other people doing different things, so I hope that my journey can be an encouragement for other women and people of color to get into architecture and design,” she added.

Danielle earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in sculpture and painting from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. She then continued her studies at UH Mānoa, where she won the Hawai’i Architectural Foundation award for her thesis on housing titled “Redesigning the Hood: Using Culturally Aware Wellness as a Tool to Inform Architectural Design.”

Now, she wants to continue researching fair housing and culturally aware design practices in architecture while still incorporating her art into it.

Laura McGuire, a UH Mānoa assistant professor of architectural history, theory, and criticism, said that McCleave’s graduation is a historical moment for the industry and she hopes it encourages other Black students to pursue the career as well.

“Historically, architecture has been a predominantly white and male profession and it remains so. But with graduates like Danielle that will hopefully change. It is vital that architects represent all walks of life and cultural experiences and Danielle’s achievement is a significant step in that direction,” said McGuire.

Danielle says that she is grateful for the support of her loved ones, teachers, family, friends, and peers that helped her push through. She said she is also looking forward to the future of UH Mãnoa “as it becomes more and more diverse and equitable.”

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