Geraldine Forbes Isais, dean, UNM School of Architecture and Planning, is the first woman to serve as dean of the school. She didn't have many leadership models to follow when she made her ascent in academia. She is making sure that the next generation of women and minorities has role models.
Forbes Isais served as the first president of the Women's Leadership Council, a foundation dedicated to expand contributions of women in architecture.
"The Women's Leadership Council was established out of a need for a forum for women in collegiate architecture education to talk. There was no formal mentorship – no ‘good ole boys' system for women," she said, adding, that it remains the only "quasi-formal" organization for this type of mentorship for women.
Wanda Bubriski is executive director of the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, established to expand knowledge about women's contributions to the built environment. Beverly Willis, FAIA, president of the foundation, helped organize the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) Women's Leadership Council.
Before the council was established, the women would meet informally in small groups. They convened a group at the ACSA administrative conference and followed up with a meeting to identify and meet with assistant and associate professors to reach out to and mentor them.
"We discovered there was a lot we didn't know – like how to negotiate salaries," she said. It was at that second meeting that Forbes Isais was nominated president.
Forbes Isais, Frances Bronet, currently dean of architecture and allied arts at the University of Oregon; and California architect and chair of architecture at California Polytechnic University Pomona Judith Sheine, tapped women to come to their meetings to address various topics.
"We had to look at what it means to be a woman and a leader. We didn't want to model or identify only with issues handed down from male colleagues," she said.
After the WLC kicked off, the gay members in ACSA were emboldened and had their own meeting, too, she said.
Forbes Isais said that there are a handful of universities and colleges with women serving as dean. "But there are more women directors now," she said.
Bubriski said, "We are delighted to hear of Geraldine Forbes Isais's selection as dean of the University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning. She demonstrates that women who network not only empower themselves but also rise to powerful positions from which to make real change."
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