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Fred Davis Earns Architectural License, Plans Non-Profit to Encourage African-American Males to Pursue Architecture

Fredrick Davis, Senior Executive Director of Building Services, has met the requirements to become a licensed registered architect for the state of North Carolina.  For him, this latest accomplishment means that he can further support other young professionals in their quest to fulfill their dreams.

Architects are responsible for design, creating and inspiring those they encounter on a daily basis, he said. Architects are number one problem-solvers, he says. Here, Davis hopes that the work he oversees does just that.

According to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, only 2% of licensed architects in the United States are Black or African American, and fewer than one in five new architects identify as a racial or ethnic minority.

Davis wants to change that narrative, and what better opportunity than with DPS, he says. 

“With a district that is 80% students of color, I want to provide access to the profession to students of color. I hope to increase the representation.”

Davis has plans to start a non-profit he’s coined “Licensed By Design” to shed light on the profession at all stages and expose young African-American youth to the profession to shed light on work that minority architects have done. Whether it be k-12 students, minority architecture students or recent emerging professionals in the field, Davis’ goal is to increase the numbers and change the world for good. 

He wants to help young people line up internships, and showcase the HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) with architecture programs, as well as the magic of creating and designing structures. 

After all, he says, in addition to support at home, he had a good start here in the Durham Public Schools. He returned to DPS in 2020 with a full ledger of tasks that included addressing aging buildings amid a reduced workforce and COVID 19.  

As the lead for construction and design, he led the opening of the district’s first  new school in almost a decade, spearheaded the 10-year Capital Improvement plan, and drove the successful implementation of the 2022 School Bond Referendum that will provide much needed building improvement and new construction to the district. 

His current role includes capital construction, facility maintenance and environmental services and facility rentals. The Building Services Department “builds it, maintains it, and cleans it, to make sure there is access for community activities. Operations supports schools in transforming minds,” he said. “We’re the transaction that makes the transformation possible.”

“I have three children with different learning styles, and I know you have to build with the end-user in mind to help expand their creativity,” said Davis.

Having his architect’s license provides added value to the Durham Public Schools, and Davis says he wants to do even more.

At a young age Davis knew he wanted to be an architect and was exposed to math, science and technology while a student here. He was influenced by his uncle, a graduate of Tuskegee Institute and an architect. As a youngster, he was intrigued with his uncle’s architectural toy house renderings, and excelled in S.T.E.M. classes in Durham Public Schools. 

Davis graduated from Hampton University with a bachelors of architecture. He says there were many sleepless nights at HU, studying and researching. His class started with 68 students and graduated only 11. He stays in touch with each of those graduates; three of them, including himself, are now licensed. After graduation, he went on to practice architecture in RTP working on private and public sector design and construction projects. 

Upon gaining the needed experience in the profession, Davis decided to continue his education. He then earned a masters in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. It was during this time that he was reintroduced to DPS and the classroom. During graduate school, Davis became a long term sub and middle school basketball coach. He later returned to DPS full time working in maintenance and capital planning. In this role, his goal has been to reimagine and redesign workplace environment

Davis never lost sight of his passion and ultimate goal of becoming a licensed architect. He began to take the six-part examinations in 2018. He knew that once he was able to achieve this goal he would be able to change the world and the profession of architecture.

“It (architecture) is inspiring. It is one of the few professions where the end result provides a lasting impression well after you’re gone. To know you had a hand in that is something that has always been a passion of mine,” said Davis.

His message to young people– particularly young males of color– is to persevere.  He didn’t pass the exam the first time he took it but he knew he could do it, so tried again. 

“This is something that I always wanted to achieve and no one was going to keep me from achieving this dream,” he said.

He also stresses that time management, patience, and setting goals are keys to success.

“I'm a product of DPS and the same opportunities that were available to me are still available,” said Davis.

“The legacy is about goal-setting.  The school system can provide you with opportunities to achieve your goals.  Most people set these goals at an early age in a K-12 experience and if design and construction can foster that, that’s the goal I want to achieve,” said Davis.