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Texas A&M University College of Architecture

Community Engagement Through Design

Community Engagement Through Design: Collaboration with the Brazos Valley African American Museum

What is the Community Engagement Through Design (CETD)?

The Community Engagement Through Design is an ongoing community engagement program led by the College of Architecture Diversity Council (CARC-DC) at Texas A&M University. The program is a collaboration between the Brazos Valley African American Museum (BVAAM) and all four departments at the College of Architecture: Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Construction Science and, Visualization and beyond.

When did the program start?

The program started in 2012 and to date it has involved more than 400 students, faculty and community members through curriculum-based, collaborative projects in service of the Brazos Valley African American Museum. The priority of the program is to establish and maintain channels of communication, exchange and collaboration between the local African American community (which, as many others in the US, is not actively engaged in our campus)  and Texas A&M students mainly from the College of Architecture (but not exclusively) through socially responsible design and participatory planning and engagement activities.

How does the program work?

The program is based on the work of faculty members and graduate and undergraduate students. Faculty incorporate projects within their class syllabi according to the overall direction of the program, which is led by the CARC-DC and chaired by Dr. Cecilia Giusti, the CARC Associate Dean for Outreach and Diversity.  

The CARC-DC leads the overall coordination of projects and incentives for faculty and students to engage in the process and ensures the benefits for the community are aligned with current needs. Once a project is identified, in collaboration with BVAAM board of directors, it is either delivered through volunteer work, formal incorporation into course syllabi, or a combination of both. For a project to be incorporated into a class syllabus, faculty member takes the lead and aligns deliverables with learning objectives of a course (or in multiple courses depending on the magnitude of the project). In this way, students are engaged in the project as part of their learning process. In some cases, faculty member/student volunteers deliver directly to the needs of the Museum as an extracurricular activity. In both cases, the CARC-DC supports efforts ensuring synergy among extracurricular and curricular initiatives. This process involves negotiation and coordination at multiple levels. The program, while flexible is also structured as it accounts for different levels of participation among faculty and students.

What is the benefit of the program?

The benefits for students, at this predominantly white institution, include: exposure to real challenges faced by the African-American community within driving distance to campus that has been historically neglected; and hands-on experience with community engagement, socially responsible design, and participation techniques, which will are invaluable sources for their future careers.

The program provides an insight for the diverse community of Bryan - College Station on the power and limits of design and built environment professions in shaping just cities and inclusive environments. The benefits to the community - local stakeholders and the general public - are: increased access to, and collaboration with the university; increased exposure to the research, design and events on campus; pro-bono architectural proposals; design-built projects; fundraising and marketing strategies for the BVAAM, etc.

Overall, the Community Engagement Through Design offers a meaningful and mutually enriching collaboration between students at a historically white university and a local African-American community through the lenses of architecture, design, and participatory planning.



The program to date includes the following class-based projects in the College of Architecture:

Fall 2013

Scaled Models of Lost Original School Buildings

Landscape Improvement Plan for Brazos Valley

Spring 2014

Project: Milky Way Phase I

Fall 2014

Project: Milky Way Phase II

Project: Black Businesses in Bryan

Spring 2015

Project: Marketing Proposal for BVAAM

Project: Milky Way Phase III

Fall 2015

Project: Milky Way Phase IV

Spring 2016

Project: Fundraising proposal for BVAAM

Class presentation by BVAAM