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See the first African architecture women to earn a Doctorate Degree from Hawaii University



As the first Black woman to receive her doctorate in architecture from the University of Hawaii‘s Mnoa School of Architecture, Danielle McCleave has created history.

“I had a range of emotions when I first learned that I would be the first Black woman to earn this degree.

According to the University of Hawaii News, McCleave remarked, “I was thrilled to be in this position of trailblazing and I knew it would be inspiring for future Black women trying to enter into design.

Danielle was pleased with her accomplishment but also a little disappointed because she remained the first and only person in 2022.

Her degree marks a significant achievement in an industry where there are just 2% Black architects and 0.4% Black female architects out of 116,242 architects in the US.

I hope that my experience can inspire other women and people of color to pursue careers in architecture and design because we have repeatedly learnt how important representation is and how vital it is to be able to see yourself in other people doing various things, she continued.

Danielle graduated from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a focus on painting and sculpture.

She subsequently completed her education at UH Mnoa, where she was recognized for her housing-related thesis, “Redesigning the Hood: Using Culturally Aware Wellness as a Tool to Inform Architectural Design,” with the Hawai’i Architectural Foundation Award.

She now wants to continue learning about culturally sensitive architectural design and fair housing while also using her art.


McCleave’s graduation is a historical moment for the field, according to Laura McGuire, an assistant professor of architectural history, theory, and criticism at UH Mnoa. She hopes that it will inspire other Black students to pursue the same career.

“Historically, and still today, the profession of architecture has been dominated by white men. But maybe that will change with recent graduates like Danielle.

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It is crucial that architects come from all societal backgrounds and cultural experiences, and Danielle’s success is a big step in that direction, according to McGuire.

Danielle expresses her gratitude for the assistance of her friends, family, instructors, and fellow students who encouraged her to persevere.

She added that she is excited about UH Mnoa’s future “as it grows more and more diverse and equal.”

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