I had the pleasure of participating in the SLS affiliated VIP: Building for Equity and Sustainability in the Spring of 2020. I wanted to join because I had a surface-level interest in what sustainability and equity meant in the built environment. As a minority, I understood that not everything was designed for everybody, and a big part of ensuring an inclusive future is truly understanding the root problem. It was important to me as an architecture major to recognize the impacts of our designs and how we can design for a more comprehensive society. Understanding this, and not knowing what actions I could take to address these things, I took the leap to join. It ended up being more of an enriching experience than I imagined.
Especially recently, it might seem “trendy” to pursue sustainable and equitable initiatives. Our goal was to make sure that these ideas are implicit in our buildings, cities, designs, and innovations. Seeing that this project team was recently formed, I enjoyed that everyone involved had to struggle and grapple with the concepts we were exploring. We all asked ourselves: What is equity beyond accessibility? How are equity and sustainability linked? What can we do to promote these ideas? We had a great set of instructors that were passionate about these ideas in all facets, from engineering to public policy. We, as students, also had room to research, explore, and share our ideas on the topics, how we may have viewed them in the past, and its personal impacts. This really allowed us to grow our knowledge as a group.
It was refreshing to know that this process was not a standard identification of right and wrong, but an evolving conversation between students and professionals alike in order to see how the built environment can genuinely reflect diversity of people. We were then able to explore these concepts in smaller project teams in a topic of our choosing, my group choosing to explore solutions to explicitly impact the curriculum at Georgia Tech. This allowed a level of initiative that I had not gotten in any of my other classes. I am hoping to continue with participation in this VIP to see my project though. Being a participant in this was an eye-opening experience, and really helped to reframe what I was learning in my classes. This process has inspired me to pursue these applications in my career post-graduation and has helped me become an asset while interning. Beyond the enriching experiences I had, it made me optimistic and hopeful about our future. Knowing there is a community of non-profit leaders, professors, students, corporations, etc. that are committed to making sure the cities we live in not only address the growing environmental crises we are in, but resilient to the changes of our evolving social sphere. I encourage anyone who is curious and wants to have concrete impact on our communities, to join.
Interested in other courses that address issues of equity? Check out this previous blog post.
Links to SLS affiliated VIPs: