Turning experience into drive

Headshot of Austin Hogans

Photo courtesy of Austin Hogans/Trapolin-Peer Architects

Design Kits campaign aims to help students across Louisiana

Story by Naomi King Englar

The cost of studying architecture and design isn’t just tuition and books. Design supplies – from sketchbooks to model-making materials – add up financially and can make a real difference in a student’s education and future career.

That’s why several colleges and universities across Louisiana are collecting donations and supplies for first year students, thanks to a campaign led by Tulane alumna Austin Hogans (M.Arch, MSRED ’20) and the National Organization for Minority Architects (NOMA) Louisiana chapter. Donations can be made at www.nomala.org/design-kits or at drop-off sites listed on the website.

Hogans, who is an Architectural Designer at Trapolin-Peer Architects in New Orleans, initiated the campaign in 2023 because of her own experience confronting the financial challenges of studying architecture. Having experienced homelessness as a high school student, she dedicated herself to her studies as a coping strategy. That led her to attend Miami University in Ohio for undergraduate architecture. It was there that she was given donated design supplies through the school without her having to ask or prove her financial hardship. For many, there’s a stigma to receiving “handouts” and therefore they don’t ask for help, Hogans said.

“I didn’t know much about architecture and how expensive it was,” Hogan said. “I had just gotten out of homelessness. I didn’t know how I was going to purchase $300 worth of supplies and be prepared the first day.”

Receiving a supply kit, Hogans said, she felt the school recognized that she deserved to be there and no matter her financial background. A design supply kit also helps with the financial burden, Hogans said, because the cost of federal or private student loans range from 5%-7% interest. For Hogans, she would have had to pay for supplies from her loan for living expenses.

A group of students is shown outdoor equipment at a water-treatment facility in India.
A student stands to present digital slides on a large screen in front of a panel of guest critics.
Austin Hogans during the Rajasthan River Cities Research Studio, Fall 2019

After receiving her graduate Master of Architecture and Master of Sustainable Real Estate degrees at Tulane School of Architecture, Hogans wanted to organize a campaign like what she received as an undergraduate. Studying for several years in architecture, Hogans said, she saw a correlation between successful students and how much they invest into their projects with supplies. It’s noticeable who can afford to print and build.

“I decided to turn this frustration into some form of action. I want to move this forward toward paying for other things related to architecture education,” Hogans said. “I feel that architecture can be a bit classist. We want to grow to where we can create grants and scholarships, so they can pay for their supplies and other needs.”

For now, with the donation campaign, Hogans said she hopes new alumni will contribute unused or gently used materials from when they were in school.

“I feel like it’s one of those big missed opportunities,” Hogans said. “We graduate and we think we’ll use these supplies but we just don’t.”

NOMA Louisiana and Hogan are still planning on how they will disburse the kits, but Hogans said it will involve a brief form sent to all first year students at Tulane School of Architecture, University of Louisiana at Lafayette School of Architecture and Design, LSU School of Architecture, and Louisiana Tech School of Design. The form will collect information from interested students. It will also provide valuable data to NOMA Louisiana and the participating schools to push for more resources from the local built environment community.

For more information about the NOMA Louisiana Design Kits campaign, to make a donation, or find a drop-off site, visit www.nomala.org/design-kits.