Her presidency followed the 2023 presidency of Emily Grandstaff-Rice.
Dowdell received her official title during her inaugural ceremony on Dec. 15. Before diving into her speech, Dowdell awarded Grandstaff-Rice a former president’s medal.
“It is truly an honor and a privilege to stand before you today as the 100tb president of the American Institute of Architects,” Dowdell stated. “You should know that in the 166-year history of the AIA, I’m the seventh female president, the third Black president and the very first Black female president. I stand on the shoulders of giants, so I think all of those who come before me, from president No. 1 to 99.”
“Being elected as the 100th president of AIA is both an honor and responsibility that I embrace wholeheartedly,” she said in her speech.
“My journey in architecture, from my roots in Detroit to this influential role, has deepened my conviction that design has the power to transform communities and elevate the human experience,” Dowdell continued. “This opportunity to serve my profession beautifully aligns with my overarching mission to improve people’s lives through design, fostering a shared vision of a future built environment that nurtures progress, equity, and sustainability for all.”
Before her AIA promotion, Dowdell, a Cornell University and Harvard Kennedy School alumna, led the National Organization of Minority Architects from 2019 to 2020.
She co-founded the SEED Network, was a lecturer at the University of Michigan Taubman, and was a principal in the Chicago office of HOK, a global design, architecture, engineering, and planning firm.
She also served on Cornell’s board of trustees in 2022. In 2020, the AIA awarded her the Young Architect Award.
Dowdell’s new, high-ranking position marks the second consecutive year the AIA had an all-female leadership team. Along with the 2024 president are EVO and CEO Lakisha Ann Woods and 2024 president-elect Evelyn Lee.
In an interview with AIA Chicago, the 2024 president discussed her goals to address DEI and climate change initiatives and improve architectural labor.
“I’ve been previewing the “More in ’24” concept, and I think there’s a lot of support for it. Just the notion of helping architects articulate their value and promote that is resonating,” Dowdell said. “It’s been encouraging to get that feedback. In general, people want to know what AIA is doing, not just in the country but around the world. There’s been a large focus on international growth and finding ways to bring in members from literally every corner of the globe. Many conversations have been around what we’re doing with climate action and DEI.”