The Association for Community Design's 2019-2020 Fellowship was a 9-month program for six practitioners to increase their knowledge and skills in community-engaged design. The ACD Fellowship offers strategic and holistic support for a cohort of designers, planners, and other built environment professionals, in order to build their capacity in the practice community-engaged design. The fellowship provides community engaged design best practices, mentorship, networking and building community as a cohort. In addition, fellows participated in a virtual program to learn from leaders in the field. ACD was able to significantly expand the size, scope, and duration of this Fellowship cohort thanks to the generous support of the Kresge Foundation.
Meet the Fellows
Sarah Sao Mai Habib
Sarah is an interdisciplinary artist, community organizer, and architectural designer. She is grounded by the intersections of her identity; forged by mass migration, war and diasporic hope & resilience with known ancestral roots in the Middle East and Far East Asia. For the past four years, she has been working on a variety of affordable housing initiatives, first at Habitat for Humanity and now as an architectural designer in California. As an artist, she explores concepts of home, dignity and healing through the interface of land and the built environment with our struggles for liberated joyous living, as well as new and ancient ways of community building. Her work explores mutuality and reciprocity in love & labor, communal multi-generational healing, and reconciling the binaries of: multiple identities & cultures, reflection & action, past & present, mind/body/spirit/nature beyond constructed borders.
Melisa Sanders (née Betts)
Melisa is a native St. Louis designer committed to the research, testing, and design of sustainable, equitable, and functional space. Combining education and experience in Interior Design, Architecture, and Urban Design, she believes in architecture as a holistic approach that encompasses how a building affects people, the environment, and community context. As one of the few women of color practicing architecture in the midwest, she has used her experiences with discrimination in the architecture field to fuel her community design work. Melisa recently opened a solo practice, BlackArc, to focus solely on inclusive and engaged practice.
The through-line of Camila Jordan’s work has been advocating for and working towards systems change at different levels in the urban environment, both with individuals in underserved areas and policy analysis and research in Brazil and New York City. She is currently the Program Director for the Basement Conversion Pilot Program in East New York at Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation; a 35-year-old, Brooklyn based non-profit. This program has been long overdue in NYC, where thousands of people have been living in illegal and unsafe basements for decades. Camila coordinates with NYC’s Housing Preservation and Development Department, four partner organizations, and the services provided to the homeowners. Camila is a shameless book nerd, tree-hugger and “undiscovered” tenor.
Ebony is a planner focused on creative economic development strategies and their intersection with community-benefit. From conducting spatial analyses to creating engaging activities for public meetings, her work has been included in a variety of public and private sector presentations and reports. Framed by her nine years of experience in art non-profit management and operations, Ebony understands the importance of feasible implementation based on organizational capacity and structure. Outside of planning, Ebony performs as DJ Natty Boom, spinning music that ranges from Tropical Bass, International Pop, House, and Hip-Hop.
Venesa Alicea AIA, NOMA, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP
Venesa is a registered Architect in NYS, is wholly committed to civic architecture, and encouraging community engagement through design practices. Her interests converge in architecture and public policy where good design, both sustainable and socially conscious, can influence the development of buildings, communities, and neighborhoods. An alumna of the City College of New York, where she also teaches, she currently serves as President of the Architecture Alumni. She is Founding Principal of NYVARCH Architecture, a NYC Architectural Practice that blends her interest in Social Justice, Community Design with Sustainability and Resilience.
Taylor Holloway NOMA, Assoc. AIA
Taylor is an architect, educator, and maker with broad experience using design-driven approaches to promote equity in the built environment, advance collective capacities for impact, and champion for the preservation of shared cultural legacies. Last year she founded Public Design Agency, a multidisciplinary design studio that fosters civic stewardship, urban revitalization, and cross-cultural exchange through art, architecture, and education. She is a 2019 AIA Emerging Professionals Exhibitor, an AIA Jason Pettigrew Memorial ARE Scholar, was selected as a 2018 Equity by Design Emerging Professional, the 2013 AIA Chicago Martin Roche Travel Fellow, and the 2006 Wellesley College Berenice Lapin Architecture Fellow. Additionally, Taylor is an Impact Strategist at the Social Impact Studio. Her not-so-secret passion is becoming a master builder.
The 2019 ACD fellowship program was directed by Shalini Agrawal. Shalini is founder of Public Design for Equity, and co-director of Pathways to Equity, a leadership experience that brings public interest design and self-reflective practice together to support responsible social impact design practice. Shalini is Associate Professor in Diversity Studies at California College of the Arts. Read the full call for fellows here: https://www.communitydesign.org/files/ACDfellowship.pdf