Three Architecture Students Receive AIA Diversity Scholarships



By Andrew Connor
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With the goal of lifting up diverse voices in the architecture industry and creating a more inclusive field, both the Architects Foundation—the philanthropic arm of the American Institute of Architects—and AIA’s Chicago chapter award annual diversity scholarships to minority architecture students who show great promise as architects. This year, three Illinois Institute of Technology students were the recipients of these awards: Fionn Hui (B.ARCH. 1st Year), William Manzanilla (B.ARCH. 3rd Year), and Hsu Myat Aung (M.S.ARCH. Candidate).

Hui is the recipient of the Architects Foundation’s Diversity Advancement Scholarship, a national award created in 1970 after civil rights leader Whitney Young Jr. called for a more diverse architecture profession at the AIA’s national conference in 1968.

Hui, who grew up in Chicago, will be starting her first year of architecture school this fall with a number of accolades under her belt already. As part of a group of students in the ACE (Architecture Construction and Engineering) Mentor Program, she helped develop a proposal for the design of a floating village to house homeless individuals, which received first prize in the Chicago Architecture Biennial’s spring 2021 student competition. She also held leadership positions with her high school’s Asian American Club and the Asian Pacific Islander Teen Alliance of Chicago.

“I am constantly discovering neighborhoods and communities in the blocks of Chicago that were designed collectively, never alone,” says Hui. “By pushing for collaboration with local voices we can collage an improved built world that incorporates the diversity of a community. At the College of Architecture, I hope to concentrate these skills into motivation to ensure communities are heard.”

Manzanilla and Aung are recipients of AIA Chicago Foundation Diversity Scholarships, which award two area students—one undergraduate and one graduate—$10,000 each to go toward their studies. Of the six students who have been awarded Diversity Scholarships since AIA Chicago began the program in 2019, five have been Illinois Institute of Technology students.

Like Hui, Manzanilla became passionate about, and involved in architecture, at a young age, again through the ACE Mentor Program. ACE awarded Manzanilla an internship with Gensler, where he had the opportunity to assist with the firm’s renovation of Willis Tower. After Gensler, he started his architectural education at the College of DuPage, where he worked concurrently with the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students on Project Pipeline, which teaches minority students in middle and high school about the profession. Now finishing his B.ARCH. at Illinois Tech, he intends to continue the work in his future career.

“I get a lot of inspiration from others who are minorities and started their own firms, and hope that I can do the same—not just helping get more minority students into architecture, but also helping them become leaders,” says Manzanilla. “I would like to be a part of ACE through my firm and give students the same opportunities that were given to me.”

Finally, Aung comes to the College of Architecture to pursue her Master of Architecture degree, following her undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois Chicago. While there, she founded Human Scale, a nonprofit that aims to design projects in historically underserved neighborhoods in Chicago. Prior to her studies and work in Chicago, Aung grew up in Thailand and Myanmar, where she volunteered to build a library for an orphanage in Mae Sai, on the border of Thailand and Myanmar, and a single-family house in a village in Thailand for Habitat for Humanity.

“These were my first architecture ventures. They made me realize how architecture is a profession that can help solve issues by working collectively to address communal needs,” says Aung. “I want to keep learning about architecture and how I can use it as a tool to help solve social, environmental, and global issues.”

Photo: [From left] Fionn Hui (B.ARCH. 1st Year), William Manzanilla (B.ARCH. 3rd Year), and Hsu Myat Aung (M.S.ARCH. Candidate)