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Thomas Fowler: Civic Responsibility

“If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”

– Toni Morrison


Civic responsibility is a hallmark trait of what successful architects do to understand the world around them. Professor Fowler has been an active participant in civic activities at local, regional, national, and international levels.

It is often the perception that individuals who become involved as volunteers with associations have limited interest in the broader issues that affect the profession (i.e., design, etc.). I have the opposite view that active involvement with the collateral organizations has given me a broader view and appreciation for the profession. Navigating association work is the ultimate design problem for consensus building as you move through this kind of bureaucracy.

Fowler, Teacher’s View, A Guide to Careers in Design by Lee W. Waldrep)

The first level of Professor Fowler’s active and impactful civic involvement has been with the collateral organizations that define the profession of architecture. These organizations include the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the National Architectural Accreditation Board (NAAB), the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), the Distinguished Professors Association of the Collegiate Schools of Architecture (DPACSA), National Council of Registration Boards (NCARAB), and I will add (even though out outside the official collaterals group) the Tau Sigma Delta Honor Society (TSD).

The second level of Professional Fowler’s active and impactful civic involvement has been at a community level. As a professor of architecture, he developed opportunities for his students to extend their learning beyond the boundaries of the University’s classroom with three organizations. He founded the Community Interdisciplinary Design Studio (CIDS) and created a ground-breaking design studio that provides extraordinary opportunities for architecture students to participate in interdisciplinary collaborations with other departments. Co-founded the Design Collaboratory with his structural engineer colleague to develop an opportunity for students, faculty, and industrial partners to work directly with clients to design and build projects over an extended period and co-founded INTERNNECT w/a former student, an area high schools introduction to the architecture mentorship program. Fowler is also a founding board member for a National Government Organization (NGO) called theMbeseseInitiative for Sustainable Development (MISD), which has the primary focus of developing a polytechnic college in the Killingminjaro region of Tanzania, Africa.


Selected Professional Association Highlights:

AIAS National President: leadership and reorganization. Fowler recognized the untapped potential of the organization and created significant and lasting improvements to its governance and administrative operations. He named a Blue Ribbon Task Force and led the transformation with five major changes: 1) created a new mission statement; 2) changed the organization’s name; 3) developed new bylaws and objectives; 4)  streamlined the Board of Directors; and, 5) hired the organization’s first executive director.

A summary of collateral organization activities:

NAAB: board member 1985-1986 (student representative), 2006-2009 (ACSA representative), Secretary and Member of Executive Committee, 2007- 2008, Chaired NAAB “Conditions Renovation Task Force,” 2004-2006 and longtime visiting team member and chair for both national and international visiting, from 1984-present.

AIA National: board member (student representative) 1985 – 1986; ACSA: Secretary to the ACSA National Board of Directors, 2004-2005; Chancellor, Distinguished Professors of the ACSA, 2014 – 2015, President of the Grand Chapter of Tau Sigma Delta (TSD) Honor Society 2015 – 2016 and NCARB: participant on a range of committees, i.e., internship program, etc (student representative.

Selected Recognitions of Civic Work from the following organizations:

Community Interdisciplinary Design Studio (CIDS), Design Collaboratory (DC), Mbesese Initiative for Sustainable Development (MISD), and INTERNECT all provide imaginative ways to expand learning beyond the boundaries of the design studio and establish multi-disciplinary collaborations and invaluable links between the academy and professional practice.


Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award for the California State University System (CSU), by The Wang Family Excellence Award (only one faculty member selected from the 23 campuses).

Cal Poly State University Distinguished Teaching Award (one of three faculty selected)

Distinguished Professor of the ACSA

Cal Poly President’s Serving Learning Faculty Award (collaboration with others) for demonstrating an innovative approach to engaging the community through  curriculum-related service,

NCARB Prize for “Design Collaboratory,” co-taught with others

ACSA Creative Achievement Award (one of two selected nationally) for establishing the Community Interdisciplinary Design Studio (CIDS).

AIA Education Honor Award for the Community Interdisciplinary Design Studio

Synopsis of Fowler’s professional experience:

Thomas Fowler is a licensed architect in the USA, having over three decades of professional and teaching experience. Professional experience includes private practice at small, medium, andlarge-sized architecture firms, working as a project manager for a university’s planning, design, and construction, and running a national student association (elected position) as the President / CEO / Publisher for a year Teaching experience includes working as a  part-time andfull-time instructor at several  universities, teaching in summer high school introduction to architecture programs,  full-time teaching (which includes interdisciplinary teaching) at both undergraduate and graduate levels, along with being an administrator at two universities (Director of Minority Educational Affairs and Director of Graduate Architecture Program).

Professor Fowler with Students in front of the Installed Center for Centering Pavilion, a Design Collaboratory Project

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