The UDream Program is an academic and job placement program for promising recent graduates of architecture, urban design, and urban planning programs with a focus on underrepresented candidates.
The ongoing aim of the UDream program is to increase professional diversity in the fields of architecture and urban design, in Pittsburgh and across the nation.
Through the support of The Heinz Endowments, the original program, which was initiated in 2008 and ran from 2009 to 2018, provided additional academic training and professional internships to recent graduates to increase their marketability and connect them with employment opportunities. Now, thanks to renewed support from the Heinz Endowments, the CMU team is reimagining the UDream program for 2022 and beyond.
"UDream provides classes and hands-on internship training for students with diverse backgrounds who are interested in community development and planning," said Steve Lee, former head of the School of Architecture. "The program is designed to train the next generation of urban designers, planners, architects and landscape architects and help fill the gap of minority participation in these professions."
The original intense 18-week program was composed of three parts. For the first five weeks of the program, students studied at the Remaking Cities Institute (RCI), an urban design research center within Carnegie Mellon's School of Architecture. Courses included Studio, Sustainable Buildings & Communities, Professional Development, Real Estate and Development, History & Theory, Advanced Digital Media, and GIS. Next, they spent one week mentoring local high school students in a community-based studio project. Finally, they did 12-week paid internships at local firms and agencies.
The students would meet with community members to develop place-based design strategies and concepts. The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) consulted on the projects, and the students shared their ideas through presentation and critique. Topics covered in the four week intensive included sustainable design, digital fabrication, development concepts and geographical data tools.
In January 2015, the UDream program was awarded the National Diversity Recognition Program from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
UDream was responsible for more than 85% of all Black and Hispanic Architecture graduate students at CMU during the program’s tenure.
In 2017, UDream and CMU Alumni, Safiya Hodari became the first African American Woman to be licensed as an Architect in Pittsburgh, PA.
Pittsburgh saw over a 400% increase in underrepresented minority representation in the Architecture and Design field with half gaining permanent jobs in Pittsburgh each year.
It was “apparent that the architecture and urban design professions had little minority representation in Pittsburgh and across the nation,” stated Luis Rico Gutierrez, former College of Fine Arts Diversity Advisory Administrator. At the same time, CMU president Jared L. Cohon (1997–2013) recognized the importance of diversity and made it a central strategic initiative of the University; it was the passion of several School of Architecture faculty and staff that brought about the momentum to help change this inequality within the Architecture and Urban Design profession which later formed the UDream team.