the Neighborhood Design Center


March 23, 2021

From Past to Contemporary: Women’s History/Appreciation Month Highlights

Women’s History/Appreciation Month is not only about reflecting struggles women have overcome, but celebrating their perseverance and achievements, too.  We celebrate those trailblazers who have made an impact on women’s rights and equality throughout history, and those who continue to do so today!  Today, we’re highlighting three women who we greatly admire at NDC. These women are leaders in the tenants that represent our organization — community-engaged design, commitment to the built environment, and environmental sustainability.

Let’s dive into the stories of Veronica Davis of Nspire Green DC, Sharon Egretta Sutton author of “When Ivory Towers Were Black”, and Melody S. Mobley — the first Black woman in the Forest Service. These women have not only excelled and paved the way as women, but also as Black women in the design field!

Veronica Davis is the Co-Owner and Principal of Nspire Green DC, a planning firm whose goal is to empower and transform every community on the planet. Veronica is a civil engineer, urban planner, and self-proclaimed transportation nerd! She brings a community-engaged perspective to the expanse of her projects which range from multimodal transportation planning to environmental planning.  In July of 2012,  Veronica was recognized as Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy which includes co-founding @blackwomenbike — she’s history in the making! 

Sharon Egretta Sutton has been an architectural educator since 1975. Since then she’s taught at numerous universities — including the University of Michigan where she was the FIRST African American woman to become a full professor in an accredited architectural degree program. Sutton was the 12th African-American woman EVER to be licensed to practice architecture. She’s won many accolades and has even been a powerful keynote speaker at our “Reverberations” conference in 2018. We agree that the gap must be bridged for us to come together and create a human community. We’re thankful for her leadership and commitment to changing design pedagogy, and to push for equity in the design and planning fields.

When Melody S. Mobley was hired by the Forest Service in 1977, she was the first Black female professional forester in the history of the agency. When Mobley began working as a forester, she was not only one of very few women, but the ONLY Black woman for some time. Since the 70s, Mobely says that not much has changed in representation in the industry. Melody was one of the first people to think about forest health while working at the Ocala National Forest in Florida, but struggled to be heard throughout her career. We respect her perseverance as she continues to share the stories of her struggles as the only Black woman in forestry. To promote diversity in the field, Mobley volunteers at schools to create new intrinsic ties between children and science and forestry. Being a minority in a profession during a time when diversity was seen as  unimportant truly shows her passion and commitment to her area of expertise and to our nation’s forests as a whole. She is an inspiration!

 As Women’s History/Appreciation month comes to a close, we are honored to have had the pleasure of learning about such talented and strong women doing work that is integral to our organization’s mission. These women are making a clear impact in design and urban planning — which you all know we hold dear to our hearts. We continue to be empowered and motivated by their commitments to being pioneers in architecture, nature, and urban planning. Thank you Veronica, Sharon, and Melody!