Increasing Diversity: School Of Architecture Partners With Girl Scouts Of Utah

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As it’s typically a profession of mostly men, one would not expect to see a group of girl scouts doing construction work. But that break in tradition is exactly what the U’s School of Architecture wanted to create.

From early 2013 to fall of 2014, the group has partnered with the Girl Scouts of Utah to build new cabins for the Trefoil Ranch Camp in Provo Canyon. Now the school continues to mentor the girls who participated and are currently discussing constructing future cabins, said Erin Carraher, assistant professor.

Of those 20 girl scouts who worked with the school for the previous project, a couple have continued to stay in contact with the department and are going through a mentorship program to learn more about the profession.

“We’re not trying to convince them to be architects,” Carraher said. “We’re trying to get the word out.”

That partnership is just one of many the school has with community groups and young children. Mimi Locher, chair of the School of Architecture, said the group also frequently partners with Women in Architecture Salt Lake, a group of female architects who mentor and advocate for women in the field.

Between 15 and 18 percent of licensed architects are women. Carraher has taught classes of 40, with only four being women, and this year she has a class of 18 students with only two women. This is why the school is reaching out to young girls and teaching them about the profession early.

In the summer, the school does a camp for kids eight to 18 years old. Numbers for that camp have gradually been increasing, as is enrollment in the architecture program. Still, Locher said there is not enough data yet to know if these partnerships have increased the enrollment of women.

Lisa Hardin-Reynolds with Girl Scouts of Utah said this gender gap is part of the reason she wanted the girl scouts to get involved.

“Women, particularly in the state of Utah, are not well represented in the field of architecture, so the goal was to expose these girls to this type of experience for future career paths,” she said.

The young girls helped design the cabins and also visited the construction sites. They met female practitioners at architecture firms and met with students in the School of Architecture.

c.webber@dailyutahchronicle.com

@carolyn_webber

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