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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Young woman sets record at US university, becomes first black woman to earn PhD in Architecture

A young woman named Danielle MCcleave has made history as the first black woman to earn a Doctorate degree in Architecture from the University of Hawaii (UH) in the United States.

Danielle Mccleave earned her Doctorate degree from Manoa School of Architecture at the University of Hawaii, United States.

‘’When I first found out I would be the first Black woman to obtain this degree, I was hit with a variety of emotions. I was excited to be in this position of trailblazing, and I knew it would be encouraging for other Black women looking to get into design,” Danielle said.

Danielle obtained her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree focusing on sculpture and painting from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. She then furthered her studies at the University of Hawaii,Mānoa, where she won the Hawai’i Architectural Foundation award for her thesis on housing titled “Redesigning the Hood: Using Culturally Aware Wellness as a Tool to Inform Architectural Design.”

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Though Danielle was happy about her accomplishment, she was partly saddened that she was the first and only one(black) to graduate from the school with the degree since the inception of the school. Her degree serves as a milestone within the industry where out of 116,242 architects in the US, only 2% are Black architects and 0.4% are Black females.

She hopes her achievement will serve as a motivation to the black community to get more involved in architectural design.

“We have learned time and time again that representation matters, and how important it is to be able to see yourself in other people doing different things, so I hope that my journey can be an encouragement for other women and people of color to get into architecture and design,” she said.


Danielle mentioned that she will continue to research fair housing and culturally aware design practices in architecture while still incorporating her art into it.

Laura McGuire, a UH Manoa School of Architecture assistant professor said that Dannielle’s graduation is a historical moment for the industry and she hopes it encourages other Black students to pursue the career as well.

“Historically, architecture has been a predominantly white and male profession and it remains so. But with graduates like Danielle that will hopefully change. It is vital that architects represent all walks of life and cultural experiences and Danielle’s achievement is a significant step in that direction,” McGuire said.

Asides from being an architect, Danielle is also a yoga instructor. She has been doing yoga since she was a child and continued as an adult. She was first certified in Milan, Italy where she taught until she moved back to the United States and continued her yoga practice in Hawaii.

Danielle also loves spending her free time outside, whether it be surfing, hiking, snorkeling, or skating. She considers nature as her best friend.

Danielle says that she is grateful for the support of her loved ones, teachers, family, friends, and peers that helped her push through the university. She also said she is looking forward to the future of the UH  MãnoaSchool of Architecture as it becomes more and more diverse, inclusive, and equitable.

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