The SOM Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 SOM Foundation Robert L. Wesley Award. Three fellows, Viridiana Hernandez Sevilla, Temi Osanyintolu, and Daniella Slowik will each receive a $10,000 unrestricted award to support their academic development. In addition to the three fellows, the jury decided to expand the number of fellows to include two $5,000 unrestricted awards to Corey Norman and Kenya Steward. All recipients of the award will be mentored for a year by the jurors and an extended network of advisors.
“By establishing the Robert L. Wesley Award our aim is to support the academic development of BIPOC students in the US. We want to recognize students that demonstrate potential for leadership and are a positive voice for the community and, at the same time, help overcome current challenges that they might be facing,” said SOM Foundation Executive Director Iker Gil. “The seventy-six applications received during the inaugural edition demonstrated the remarkable work that students are doing in their universities and communities. However, it also made evident the incredible challenges that many students face and the need to help them achieve their goals. In 2020 we are honored to be able to support five extraordinary students.”
Viridiana Hernandez Sevilla is a first-year architecture student at The University of Oklahoma. Hernandez Sevilla grew up in Mexico and came to the United States at a young age as a Dreamer. She hopes to become the first in her family to obtain a college degree and to one day own her own design-build firm. Because she has not been able to visit her home country, she dreams of working internationally and becoming an advocate for people who come from a similar background—showing that it is possible to achieve anything if you really push for it.
Temi Osanyintolu is a Nigerian-American woman born and raised in Houston, TX. She is currently in her third year of a five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree at the University of Texas at Austin. Osanyintolu is proud to add to the small but growing number of Black, female architects. As an aspiring architect, Osanyintolu’s goal is to revolutionize the way we think about cities, especially our most vulnerable communities. She believes the built environment will play a significant role in solving our most pertinent issues—in a world where immigrants are fleeing their countries due to war or persecution, where the disenfranchised struggle to secure basic human needs, where discrimination continues to plague even our most developed countries, and the consequences of climate change threaten us all.
Daniella Slowik, a biracial Puerto Rican woman in her second year of the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture program at the University of Washington, discovered nature’s ability to comfort, inspire, and rejuvenate at an early age. Her experience with Tourette’s syndrome granted her “an intriguing blend of tics, curiosity, and challenges.” She often retreated to the therapeutic oasis of her mother’s garden for respite and peace. These memories are deeply embedded into her design values and have influenced her desire to develop landscape-based systems that restore the health of sensitive ecosystems and invite underrepresented communities to experience the therapeutic benefits of the natural world.
Corey Norman is a fifth-year student at California State Polytechnic University Pomona (CPP) and the Publicist of CPP’s first student chapter of NOMAS. Norman was born in Madrid, Spain and raised in Tampa, Florida. His late grandfather encouraged him to draw plans and elevations as a little boy which was his first introduction to architecture, even though he did not know it at the time. Norman joined the Marines when he was twenty-two years old and served his first tour in Afghanistan. When he left the Marine Corps, he was able to start his life-long dream of becoming an architect. Norman believes that all the hardships in his life have led him to a place where he can finally do what he loves and cannot wait for the day he designs something that people can walk through and touch, knowing that it all started from a pencil in his hand.
Kenya Steward grew up in Alabama and served in the United States Army for eleven years as a paralegal and paratrooper both at home and in multiple combat zones. While serving, she was honored to receive the prestigious Sergeant Audie Murphy award for exemplary leadership, care, and concern for Soldiers, their families, and the combat readiness of the Army. Her natural inclinations and callings have brought her to her second year of architecture studies at the Academy of Art University. Steward currently lives in Raymore, Missouri and would like to continue her formal education by obtaining a Master in Architecture in order to expand her knowledge in sustainable design.
This year’s jury was chaired by SOM Foundation Executive Director Iker Gil and included Leo Chow (Partner at SOM in San Francisco), Quilian Riano (Associate Director at the College of Architecture & Environmental Design, Kent State University), Robert L. Wesley (Retired Partner at SOM in Chicago) and Amanda Williams (Visual Artist in Chicago).
Robert L. Wesley, reflecting on the inaugural year of the award, commented that the submission class “far exceeded my expectations in number, quality, and needs. I was, and as other jury members commented, very impressed seeing and hearing the backgrounds, experiences, goals, objectives, and skills of such talented, creative, motivated, mature, and civic-minded students.” Amanda Williams remarked that “the breadth, sincerity, and vibrancy of the student submissions offers us hope, but also a stark reminder of the profound need for support and mentorship. It was especially powerful to be able to sit with Mr. Wesley himself as we imagined which awardees best embodied his legacy.”