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The Future of Design: Advocating for Diversity Through the Manitoba Studio Fund

Exploring the goals and impact of a collaborative scholarship initiative

by mangrove team
published on 04.24.2024
A graphic designer working on a Macbook laptop using a trackpad, color charts and markers

One scholarship program alone can’t erase the systemic barriers faced by aspiring designers who identify as Black, Indigenous or as a person of color, but through the Manitoba Studio Fund, we’re addressing the issue head-on. And it’s making a difference.

Take, for example, Sunmi Park, a 2023 scholarship recipient who faced the added challenge of raising two young children while trying to grow her career.

“The scholarship has opened new doors to more opportunities,” says the Red River College Polytechnic student of the award.

The initiative, which awards two $2,000 scholarships annually, one to a design student at the University of Manitoba’s School of Art and one to a design student at Red River College Polytechnic, is a collective effort with six other Manitoba-based design studios.

In collaboration with Design Professionals of Canada, the fund was established four years ago and has since awarded $9,000 to eight student recipients. While the number of awards has shifted over the years, the focus on promoting opportunity and inclusivity has remained. And the recipients continue to amaze and inspire.

Mangrove’s Creative Director, Andrew Boardman, says the idea for the scholarship came in the wake of the 2020 murder of George Floyd: “As a designer, an educator, and a parent, it struck me that one very cogent way to demonstrate support for racialized and marginalized communities is to advocate for and directly fund students on their professional path.”

Goals and impact

The Manitoba Studio Fund’s purpose is to fund the next generation of designers, inspire similar initiatives, and encourage more like-minded designers and studios to participate. By delivering financial assistance and mentorship opportunities, we hope to empower students from traditionally racialized and disenfranchised communities in Manitoba to succeed in the field of design.

Despite the nominal cost and commitment to participate, the potential impact to students is great. The scholarship amount covers approximately 28% of a design student’s annual tuition at UM or RRC Polytechnic. And while it can’t erase the cost of post-secondary education, we believe that it can provide some financial relief. Beyond that, it is a signal of support from the industry.

An increase in connection and community

In addition to providing assistance and mentorship opportunities to students, developing the MB Studio Fund has created an increased sense of connection and camaraderie among the seven founding studios. This has been a knock-on effect that we hope will continue to flourish.

Community in design is a positive endeavor. By working together, we have a stronger voice when advocating for change, we can more effectively bring ideas to life, and we can innovate in new and exciting ways. Strong communities also offer support and guidance. We hope our design community will continue to grow and be a welcoming place for young designers.

More initiatives equal more opportunity

Over the past four years, the MB Studio Fund has supported many talented young designers, and there is ample opportunity to maintain this momentum. Additional funds, scholarship programs, and initiatives could benefit even more students.

We hope that seeing this initiative in action will encourage other individuals, studios, and organizations to create similar scholarships in their communities. By amplifying the voices of underrepresented individuals and providing pathways for success, we can collectively work towards making our industry more inclusive.

Apply, spread the word, and join us

If you’re a design student in Manitoba who identifies as Black, Indigenous or as a person of color, or if you know of a student who would be a great candidate, we hope you’ll apply or share the opportunity. Applications are open until May 1 and application details are available on the MB Studio Fund website.

If you’re a designer or member of a studio that would like to participate in the MB Studio Fund, or if you’d like information on establishing a fund, please reach out to us at Mangrove. We would be delighted to connect with you about this.

Photo by Theme Photos on Unsplash.

A Certified B Corp, Mangrove is a woman-owned website design and development company with a diverse, talented team distributed around the globe. We’ve been building websites since 2009 that amplify the work of change-making organizations and increase the competitive power of businesses owned by historically marginalized people.

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