Strengthen and support our initiative

Major Grant Award Signals a New Era of Expansion and Capacity Building for AFO

The Architecture Foundation of Oregon (AFO) has received a grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust of Vancouver, Washington for an education outreach and impact initiative. This initiative will expand programming, but also build capacity for AFO to focus on overall community impact and provide meaningful solutions to eliminate gaps in the design education/engagement continuum. Press release.

AFO’s goal is to remove systemic barriers to participation in the AEC professions for people from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. With only 4 registered Black architects in Oregon, the lack of diversity in the AEC industry is one of the major barriers to inspire young Black, Brown and/or Indigenous people of color to continue in the AEC community. This initiative will allow for further pipeline stability diversifying access to the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry.

With Murdock’s support, AFO will hire an Education Outreach Associate to expand programming for low-income urban and rural schools in Oregon. AFO’s goals for this project also include establishing AFO as a hub for community/school-based design programs and eliminating financial and academic barriers to higher education with expanded scholarship opportunities. Through strong community partnerships, AFO aims to ensure that no students fall through the cracks. We will work to ensure Black, Brown, and/or Indigenous students and professionals are supported throughout the education continuum.

Fartun Abdi is an African Immigrant from Somalia. Due to the civil war, she left the country at a young age. Fartun was the first generation of her family to earn a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from Portland State University. In her free time, Fartun likes to draw, paint, and cook. She speaks three languages and considers herself to be a creative and community-driven person.

Portrait of Fartun Abdi. Smiling and Wearing a Headscarf with hat and floral arrangement.

“As a refugee in the United States dreaming about going to college to study architecture, I know how hard it is for someone with no prior experience or mentor to be able to be at the same level as other students. The lack of language, understanding, and representation has made it difficult for me and my colleagues, who were experiencing the same issues, to succeed.

After years of challenges, I received my bachelor’s from Portland State University in Architecture. As a former African Youth advocate for Portland Public Schools, I’m more than happy to be part of this amazing team as Education and Outreach Assistant.

Architects in Schools represents the type of programs my colleagues and I needed. Programs to serve and reach out to the underrepresented communities is what my nine years old self needed. To be able to explore, to learn, to be inspired, and to have representation. It is my passion to be part of the change and give our BIPOC students and underrepresented communities all the tools they need to be equal, heard, and seen.”

The initiative represents a long-term investment in aligning AFO’s work with the belief that for our shared built environment to effectively serve our citizens, all users must have opportunities to play an active role in its creation.

This represents a condensed version of our initiative workplan. At each step in the program, we will assess progress and metrics to make adjustments.


3 Year Chart of Strategies and Yearly Activities for Initiative 3 Year Chart of Strategies and Yearly Activities for Initiative for Year 2 3 Year Chart of Strategies and Yearly Activities for Initiative for Year 3