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Alberta firm donates to U of C to grow Indigenous presence in design-based careers

By Nazeefa Ahmed, January 30 2022

This year, Edmonton architecture firm Rockliff Pierzchajlo Kroman Architects (RPK) donated $25,000 to the University of Calgary School of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape (SAPL). The gift is to be used for the Indigenous Pathways Program initiated by the school to grow Indigenous presence in design and architectural careers by providing financial support to students as well as adding Indigenous ways of knowing to the curriculum. 

In an interview with the Gauntlet, the principal architect of RPK and sessional professor Jan Kroman spoke of the intention of the donation, citing the lack of representation as a contributing factor. 

“Credit for the idea of having a scholarship for underrepresented folks that identify as Indigenous or Métis goes to my partner, Jonathan Rockcliff,” said Kroman. “It’s pretty telling when you take a look at the photo of the three of us on our website, the lack of representation in the field of architecture and just even in design. There’s a lot of minorities that are currently underrepresented. We want to help in a small way, and in a way that we can foster more inclusivity.” 

Kroman emphasizes the importance of financial support for under-represented groups, given the long academic journey that becoming a licensed architect demands. Since the U of C is the only architecture school in Alberta, the cost of moving and living in a new city can become a barrier to accessing education. 

“Obstacles persist, especially if someone is the first member of their immediate family to be trying to reach higher education,” said Kroman. “Architecture requires a master’s degree in order to become a professional, and students are committing to six years at a minimum, if not more, depending on the program.”

The firm has worked on Indigenous projects in the past, including the interior remodelling of the Ociciwan Contemporary Art Collective which is Western Canada’s second Indigenous Art Gallery. 

“Visibility within the profession is important,” said Kroman. “Obviously, Alberta has Douglas Cardinal, but people need to see more people like themselves reflected in what they choose to pursue. Otherwise, they don’t even consider it a possibility.”

Kroman hopes that the donation will ultimately decrease financial burden and allow for positive academic outcomes for future design students at the U of C. 

“I think we can all appreciate how difficult it is to be a student,” said Korman. “If the financial burden is lifted, that allows for concentration on academics rather than concentrating on making ends meet. If you can help students focus on academic work rather than having a part-time job off campus, it’s a general reduction of stress. It can allow for the ultimate exploration of academia, and ideally excellence and more scholarships and more recognition.”

More information about the scholarship can be found on the U of C website.

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