“Children start establishing their interests much earlier than college, and it’s through engagement and mentoring that you reach a more diverse set of populations for the next generation of design professionals,” says Mindy No, a principal in Perkins Eastman’s New York office and longtime advocate and mentor of children in the city’s public school system. Her comments reflect the firm’s multifaceted approach to building and diversifying its talent pipeline and deeply rooted tradition of giving back to the profession and allied disciplines.

Students from Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School in Washington, DC, participate in the ACE Mentor program, working with Perkins Eastman volunteers, including Sustainability Specialist Juan Guarin (far left in photo), to create structures with spaghetti and marshmallows. All Photographs © Perkins Eastman

Starting with the youngest potential designers, Perkins Eastman has long supported the Salvadori Center in New York, a program that creatively integrates Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) through real-world applications, utilizing the built environment to address gaps in instruction and, in the process, educating students about architecture, engineering, and community planning. Perkins Eastman Co-Founder and Vice-Chair Mary-Jean Eastman served on the board for many years, and, today, Co-CEO and Executive Director Nick Leahy is a board member who participates in the center’s fundraising and curriculum development efforts. Russell Scheer, an associate in the firm’s New York studio and member of the Salvadori Center’s Emerging Leaders Advisory Council, contributes much of his spare time to the center’s after‑school programs and summer camps for elementary and middle schools, as well as other youth education organizations in the city. “I’m always reinvigorated by the passion I see in these students to become architects or to become engineers. When I meet their parents at the end of the year and get to see how proud they are, that is the best,” Scheer says.

Across the country, Perkins Eastman’s Oakland and San Francisco studios participate in Leap Arts in Education’s Sandcastle Classic, an annual competition that playfully engages elementary school students interested in the built environment while raising money for the organization’s arts programming for local students.

Gordon J. Lau Elementary School students design and build a sandcastle with volunteers from the firm’s San Francisco and Oakland studios at the Leap Sandcastle Classic held on San Francisco’s Ocean Beach.

The ACE Mentor Program (ACE), a national after‑school program for high school students, picks up where programs for younger students leave off. In New York, the firm sponsors Team 18, a group of 30-plus high schoolers from all five boroughs led by No and Scheer, following in the footsteps of Associate Principal Ty Kaul, who has mentored ACE students for many years. The team meets for more than 30 weeks each year, working on projects, learning industry software, and visiting construction sites. And the firm’s ACE team in Washington, DC, led by Miranda Ford, mentors students from Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School, a Perkins Eastman-designed school. In addition, studio volunteers teach architecture to fifth graders through the Washington Architecture Foundation’s Architecture in the Schools program.

Perkins Eastman also participates in programs established by the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA). In Pittsburgh, the funding the firm provides as a sponsor of the local chapter is applied to initiatives that include NOMA’s Project Pipeline winter workshop and summer camps benefiting middle and high school students from under-resourced schools. “I have found a lot of meaning in my work with NOMA. Because of our outreach and initiatives, I know that we’re going to see diversity in the profession continue to increase in the coming years,” says Dalenna Carrero-Rivera, an associate at Perkins Eastman and current executive board member and secretary of NOMA Pittsburgh.

Associate Russell Scheer presents a recent project to middle school students participating in a Salvadori Center after‑school program in Perkins Eastman’s New York studio.

NOMA’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities Professional Development Program (HBCU PDP) is an avenue for the firm to attract students already in architecture school. Partnering with the seven HBCUs with accredited architecture programs, the PDP facilitates mentorship, recruiting, and networking opportunities with architecture firms across the country. Though Perkins Eastman has recruited from these institutions for many years, the NOMA program deepens the firm’s commitment.

“The major growth in the diversity of our teams and leadership in the last few years is a credit to the strong foundations we already had in place prior to 2020. The relationships we’ve established with ACE and NOMA have been essential,” says Emily Pierson-Brown, associate principal and people culture manager. By reaching students early, providing mentorship, and actively participating in industry-wide initiatives, Perkins Eastman is playing a crucial role in shaping a more inclusive future for the architecture profession. Jarvis Cook, senior associate and talent acquisition manager, sees headway as well: “We’re making progress. We just can’t take our foot off the gas.” N