Portland State University

Portland State University

Portland, OR


Creating Opportunities, Lifting Barriers in Architecture at Portland State

By PSUArchitecture
Sep 15, '22 1:51 PM EST
Students in PSU's Arch High program and guest instructor Jackie Santa Lucia discuss their architecture projects in Shattuck Hall studio
Students in PSU's Arch High program and guest instructor Jackie Santa Lucia discuss their architecture projects in Shattuck Hall studio

PORTLAND, OR (1 September 2022) – At Portland State University’s School of Architecture, faculty and students are working alongside architecture firms, determined to remove barriers that often keep young people from underrepresented groups from ever dreaming of becoming an architect, or even attending college at all.

The Arch High program is one way in which PSU is nudging those barriers aside. On a recent July afternoon in Shattuck Hall, a group of 10 teens from Portland-area high schools were eagerly discussing their designs for a monument to Mulugeta Seraw, an Ethiopian immigrant who was murdered by white supremacists in Portland in 1988. All of the students identify as BIPOC, and come from communities where attending college is entirely out of reach for most young people. 

“The goal of the Arch High program is to make it easier for students of color to access an architectural education,” said Jeff Schnabel, then-director of the School of Architecture. (Professor Juan Heredia is the new director as of September 2022.) “A university education can seem so inaccessible, and in many cases it’s kids from families where they would be the first in their family to go to college.”

Funded by a grant from the Van Evera and Janet M. Bailey Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation, Arch High aims to nurture the seeds of excitement and possibility for these young students, introducing them to architecture through workshops in drawing, drafting, 3D-modeling, model making, portfolio design and public speaking. “That’s why we are holding the program on campus, so they can interact with faculty and get comfortable with the setting, realizing that professors aren’t the pipe-smoking, tweed-wearing people who look down on you over their spectacles,” said Schnabel.

In fact, the program, taught by PSU faculty member Andrew Santa Lucia, is run with the assistance of advanced BIPOC architecture students “who can talk about the challenges they have faced, what kind of support they were able to get, and where they were able to find that support,” said Schnabel. The student teachers, hired by the school, are often closer in age to the Arch High students than the professors and can relate to their experiences. 

The program, which required the students to attend Monday through Friday for four weeks in the heart of summer, compensated them for their time and commitment with a stipend of $1,000, since many participants would otherwise be working a summer job out of necessity. 

Ja’Von Robinson, 19, recently graduated from Alliance High School at Kenton. “It was always my dream to be an architect,” he said. He appreciated the hands-on nature of the experience. “When I first came to the program, I thought it would be like regular school, like me just looking at books and doing research. I didn’t think we would get into modeling so soon, but we were in class the first day, and that same day we started designing. I like how you have more freedom, and they let us get out and do architecture instead of just trying to teach us.”

Adilene Galindo, 18, graduated from Benson Polytechnic High School in spring 2022. “I chose Benson because of its architecture program, but unfortunately it shut down my freshman year, so I wasn’t really able to figure out if this is what I wanted to do,” she said. “[The program] has made me feel more comfortable coming here. It’s definitely helped me understand college life.”

Her favorite part has been taking her ideas from abstract form to a physical reality. “Although I struggled a lot with making my model, it was very fun to go from ‘oh, this is a concept’ to ‘oh look, it’s right there!’” 

Opening Doors

Students participating in the Arch High program who decide to pursue an architecture degree at PSU will be eligible for the newly established School of Architecture Opportunity Scholarship.

The scholarship will fully fund tuition and fees for qualifying undergraduate students at PSU School of Architecture for four years.

BRIC Architecture and Mackenzie Architects have each pledged a gift of $25,000 to the PSU School of Architecture Opportunity Scholarship, whose intent is to enable students of diverse backgrounds to pursue an architectural education and be well prepared for success when they enter the profession after graduation. 

The School of Architecture Opportunity Scholarship follows in the footsteps of the PSU Opsis Architecture Scholarship, established by Opsis Architecture in 2018 with a similar goal of adding diversity to the School of Architecture and the field. Since then, three architecture students have received the scholarship.

Supporting the School of Architecture Opportunity Scholarship was an easy decision for BRIC Architecture, says principal Dan Hess. “We didn’t hesitate to do it,” said Hess. “For underserved communities, for people of color, for people with income challenges, there are real barriers to getting into the architecture profession. I know there are people who don’t have the resources to go to architecture school because the financial barrier is too much. So anything we can do to help eliminate that barrier is a goal of ours.” 

“The profession has traditionally been, and still is, a white-male-dominated profession,” continued Hess, who started BRIC with two partners, Karina Ruiz and Amy Friendy, a PSU alumna. “One of the conversations always at the forefront was how we can use the firm to address the inequities both in our society but also in the profession.”

It was important to Hess and his partners to be a part of the community they work and live in, he said. “PSU School of Architecture, with its urban setting, is the potential home base for everybody in the metro area who might not have the resources to go out of state for college. PSU's work to bring in kids from the Portland metro area really aligns with our vision of how we want to impact the community."

Alexis Bauer, associate principal at Mackenzie, highlighted the firm’s ties to PSU as well as its shared values. “Mackenzie’s founding architect, Eric Saito, was an alum of PSU, attending the college before transferring to the University of Oregon where he completed his architectural program,” she said. “We are so proud of his legacy and the foundation he set for the firm so that we become who we are today. Mackenzie is absolutely committed to creating an inclusive and just community and supporting a diverse student body at the PSU School of Architecture.”

“Portland firms have historically been wonderful supporters of our students and programs,” said Jeff Schnabel, director of the School of Architecture. “These scholarships reflect a new level of partnership toward the goal of enriching the profession through diversity and inclusion.  We are excited to increase the diversity of our student body, and as a result, contribute to this growth in the architecture profession as a whole.”

To support the School of Architecture Opportunity Scholarship, please visit, or contact Ally Cleasby, Associate Director of Development, at