Women at Kennesaw State breaking barriers in the architecture field

KENNESAW, Ga. | Aug 2, 2022

The shelves in Kathryn Bedette’s office on Kennesaw State University’s Marietta Campus display dozens of architectural models of various designs. The models are pieces of students’ work, which she proudly collects and displays.

The students behind the models reflect the diversity within the College of Architecture and Construction Management (CACM) where the percentage of women studying architecture is significantly higher than the percentage of women architects, a field long made up mostly of men. 

Bedette is a licensed architect, the associate dean for student success and accreditation and recently became the first woman to lead the architecture department as interim chair. She is also the first female full professor since the program was accredited in 1995 and the first female administrator for CACM.

Dean Andrew Payne, Bedette and others in the College say it’s a positive development to see more women interested in architecture. 

“I am proud of the College’s efforts to increase diversity in our programs, which will lead to more diversity in the architecture profession,” Payne said. “This is an important part of our mission to create an inclusive educational experience at Kennesaw State and produce well-rounded architects.”

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L to R: Zamila Karimi, Kathryn Bedette, Claudia Aguilar

At Kennesaw State, there has been a steady increase in the number of women pursuing architecture as a career over the last few years. In fall of 2015, women made up 35% of the total enrollment in the architecture department. In the fall of 2021, women made up 48% of the architecture student body and non-white women made up 32% of the student body. The trend mirrors one seen nationally, according to the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture.

“Our students come from all over with all different kinds of backgrounds and perspectives,” Bedette said. “They come together in studios and work long hours together. That kind of teamwork and communication in a creative environment is made better with different voices and perspectives.”

The influence of women in CACM can be seen from administration to the classroom, in both faculty and students.

Leadership

Bedette’s leadership skills, architecture experience and ability to connect with students have contributed to her success. She has been a voice for women in architecture for years – not only for students but also for professionals. 

Kathryn Bedette
Kathryn Bedette

“Because our numbers at KSU are higher than the national numbers, we are automatically contributing to making the field more diverse,” Bedette said. “The more we can increase diversity in our academic programs and launch our graduates into careers, the bigger impact our program can have on the profession.” 

Before becoming associate dean, Bedette served as president, advocacy chair and a member of the Board of Directors for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Georgia. As president, she authored a resolution that passed in 2018 for the AIA to create a leadership development pipeline for women of color called Next to Lead.

She said the academic environment is ideal for encouraging diversity, which is an important part of the design process. 

Bedette and Payne recently implemented a new resource called the Student Success Headquarters, which provides networking events, training, and computer software to architecture students and also helped create an award-winning, student-led registered student organization for mentorship in the college.  

Bedette says she hopes these tools will encourage all students, and especially women, to pursue architecture and become leaders in the field.  

Inspiration

Architecture senior lecturer Zamila Karimi is using her talents to inspire women and encourage innovation at Kennesaw State and beyond the classroom. She uses her designs to address social issues and believes architects can be agents of positive social change.

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Zamila Karimi

Karimi moved from her native Pakistan to the United States to study architecture at the Southern California Institute of Architecture and was, admittedly, intimidated. 

“It was daunting,” Karimi said. “I was scared, but I had a female professor who saw potential in me. Because of her, I am here, and I am teaching the next generation.” 

As many women’s stories go, Karimi moved to Atlanta, got married and started a career while raising a family. Karimi founded an interdisciplinary design firm called Connexion Studio, curated exhibitions and volunteered her creative abilities to start Camp Mosaic, a summer camp for children which has become a flagship program. Karimi returned to school to obtain a terminal Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Georgia and subsequently earned a post-professional Master of Architecture from McGill University, which was key to her current focus on public space activism. 

“Women can’t give up,” she said. “As I look back on my career, I created my own opportunities but also had very gracious people around me. If women continue to push the boundaries, we can do new things.” 

Her most recent architectural art installation, called the Enfold Pavilion, opened in late March along the Atlanta Beltline and was created with a former student, Farhaan Samnani.   

“The Enfold Pavilion is a commentary on the experience all of us went through during the last two years in the pandemic,” Karimi said. “It questions the notion of the house as a standard A-frame polygon and is a metaphor for personal memories, dreams, and aspirations. The form twists, turns, and tapers, going through a metamorphosis representing the resiliency of architecture and people. It provides a personal space for people to interact, pause and reflect.”

The Next Generation 

Architecture student Claudia Aguilar discovered her passion for design and her interest in Kennesaw State with the help of her father, who studied industrial engineering at Southern Technical Institute before the school was renamed Southern Polytechnic State University and later consolidated into Kennesaw State University.

Claudia Aguilar
Claudia Aguilar

“I started making tiny models when I was really young and created dollhouses using foam, cardboard, or any materials I could find,” Aguilar said. 

She is in her final year of the five-year architecture program, and in the fall of 2021, Aguilar was one of five winners recognized at the department’s Integrative Studio Competition. In addition to her academic success, Aguilar is the Vice President of Kennesaw State’s chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), a group that provides networking opportunities and works with faculty members to enhance the architecture program.   

Aguilar is aware of the demographics in the architecture profession but said the environment at Kennesaw State is diverse and inclusive. 

“I don’t feel like there’s a big divide between men and women,” she added. “I consider myself lucky to be a student here.” 

Her gratitude also stems from looking up to role models in the department like Bedette. 

“She’s doing great things with the Student Success Headquarters,” Aguilar said. “And it’s great to see a woman in a leadership position who not only encourages students to get more involved but also mentors them throughout their journey.”  

Aguilar is looking forward to graduating next year and becoming a licensed architect. She plans to work locally, get involved in leadership positions as a professional, and stay connected with the University.  

– Abbey O’Brien Barrows
Photos by Matt Yung


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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.