Meet Danielle McCleave, First Black Woman to Earn Doctorate in Architecture from University of Hawaiʻi

by Gee NY
Danielle McCleave. Image Credit: @sunshinedani___ on Instagram

Danielle McCleave has made history by becoming the first Black woman to receive a Doctor of Architecture professional degree from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa School of Architecture during the spring 2022 semester.

According to a news report published by the university in 2022, McCleave expressed a mix of emotions upon learning about her groundbreaking achievement.

“When I first found out I would be the first Black woman to obtain this degree, I was hit with a variety of emotions,” McCleave said. “I was excited to be in this position of trailblazing, and I knew it would be encouraging for other Black women looking to get into design.”

She also highlighted the importance of representation in the field of architecture.

“We have learned time and time again that representation matters, and how important it is to be able to see yourself in other people doing different things,” McCleave stated.

Nationally, the number of licensed Black architects in the U.S. is only 2% of 116,242, with Black female architects representing a mere 0.4% of licensed architects.

McCleave’s achievement marks a significant milestone for both UH Mānoa and the national architectural professional community.

Before earning her doctorate, McCleave received her bachelor of fine arts from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Her research focuses on equitable housing and culturally aware design practices in architecture, reflecting her commitment to diversifying the field.

Laura McGuire, a UH Mānoa assistant professor of architectural history, theory, and criticism, praised McCleave’s accomplishment.

“Her graduation is also an important step for the School of Architecture,” McGuire stated. “We hope that with examples like Danielle, UH Mānoa can attract more Black undergraduate and graduate students whose life experiences will further enrich the university community.”

McCleave hopes her achievement will inspire others to explore diverse architecture practices and pursue careers in the field.

“I am excited to see the future of the architecture department and UH as a whole as it becomes more and more diverse and equitable,” she said.

McCleave’s historic accomplishment aligns with UH Mānoa’s goal of enhancing student success as outlined in the university’s strategic plan.

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