HONOLULU (KHON2) — Danielle McCleave recently graduated with her Doctor of Architecture being the first Black woman to do so at the University of Manoa. 

McCleave, who has been living in Hawaii for almost five years, said while completing her degree she looked around and noticed she was the only Black student in many of her classes. 

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“So, I literally emailed the graduate division office like the admissions office, and she emailed me back,” said McCleave. “She was like, I can tell you that there were three others, three other male graduates with their doctorate, no females. And there was one other female who got her master’s in like the 80s.”

McCleave said she is the fourth Black person to receive a doctorate in Architecture at UH Manoa and the first Black woman. 

According to UH Manoa the number of licensed Black architects in the U.S. sits at just 2% of 116,242. Of that number, Black female architects represent only 0.4% of licensed architects.

Before earning her doctorate, McCleave earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in sculpture and painting from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. While at UH Mānoa, McCleave won the Hawaiʻi Architectural Foundation award for her thesis on housing.

“Right now, the sky is the limit, I would love to keep going into what I focus my research on, which is affordable housing, and government private housing geared towards catering to specific cultural needs,” said McCleave. “So, for me, mostly looking into like the black culture and like, going back into black communities, because that’s where I’m coming from, as a lot of where my heart is.”

McCleave hopes by sharing her accomplishment it encourages other minorities to look into diverse architecture programs and follow their passions.

“A lot of my research, I think, can be translated really well for like Hawaiian communities, and a few other underserved communities here on the island,” said McCleave. “So I’d love to like to get deeper into that research and see where it takes me.”

McCleave said although she did not get her master’s in architecture, she still got accepted into UH Manoa’s doctoral program for Architecture. She said at the university they have a seven-year program for students to start at UH and seven years later walk away with their doctorate. 

“Since I didn’t have my undergraduate in architecture, I had to take an extra semester, before getting into the doctorate program that they call bootcamp,” said McCleave. “It’s basically like four years of architecture shoved into one semester.”

She said it was pretty intense but made it through and is so proud of her accomplishments paving the way for other Black future architects. 

“The architectural program at UH is amazing,” said McCleave. So, all the stars kind of aligned in that way.”
McCleave hopes by sharing her accomplishment it encourages other minorities to look into diverse architecture programs and follow their passions.

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“It’s actually really funny because, in high school, I used to tell like my dad that I was going to go to college and study architecture, then I was like, just kidding I’m an art major,” said McCleave. “Well, I wound up coming back, making the full circle and circling back into it.”