Getting to Know UVA’s New Dean of the School of Architecture, Malo A. Hutson

August 25, 2021 By Jane Kelly, Jane Kelly,

Malo A. Hutson joined the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture on July 1 as the school’s new dean.

Hutson is an internationally known expert in urban health, community development and environmental justice. Before arriving at UVA, he was a tenured professor and director of Columbia University’s Urban Planning Ph.D. Program in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.

With classes just begun, UVA Today reached out to Hutson to see how he is settling in and to learn more about his aspirations as dean.

Q. What drew you to planning, design and higher education? Do you have any personal anecdotes to share?

A. My lived experience made me aware of the importance of the built and natural environments, and that brought me to urban and environmental planning. I became aware of how where you live and the quality of your environment can impact your opportunities in life, ranging from education to your health to your economic well-being. My two younger sisters and I were raised by a single mother who worked nights as a nurse. Our circumstances also led us to move frequently, and that exposed me to different communities. I was struck by the disparities between the different places we lived in, as some neighborhoods lacked quality housing, roads, schools, parks and community centers.

My interest in higher education also comes from my personal background. My mother always stressed the importance of education, but she also stressed the importance of giving back to society. Because I believe institutions of higher education can positively impact societies, I focused my career on trying to address challenges at the intersection of the built and natural environments and health equity through research, teaching and service.  

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Q. What do you feel are the most pressing issues in today’s world of architecture and the built environment?

A. Design professionals must respond to same significant challenges that impact us all – climate change, environmental degradation, challenges to our democratic institutions, health inequities, disaster management and recovery as well as systemic racism and racial and ethnic violence.  The design professions are at the center of these discussions.

Q. You were invited to participate in the White House Forum on Environmental Justice, hosted by President Barack Obama’s administration. What was that like?

A. Anytime you are invited to the White House, it’s an incredible honor. At the White House Forum on Environmental Justice, I met so many everyday Americans who are working tirelessly to make their local communities more just and healthier. Notably, I walked away from that event in the heart of our nation’s federal government with a stronger belief of how important it is to get involved locally in your community.

Q. How are you settling in at UVA?

A. I’m settling into UVA nicely. I have been humbled by the outpouring of support from colleagues, staff, students, alumni and friends of UVA. Everyone has been so warm and welcoming. I have also found that the UVA community is supportive, energetic and willing to do what it takes to make sure that students, staff and faculty are successful. I have really enjoyed getting to know so many outstanding people at the A-School and across Grounds. The people of UVA have made my job an extraordinary job. My family and I feel lucky to be a part of such a great institutional family.

Q. As the new dean, what are you most excited about? What are your priorities?

A. I am excited to work in partnership with faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of the University to build on our collective work around climate resilience and climate justice. We are also committed to making the School of Architecture more just, equitable, diverse and inclusive.

Another priority for us is to make higher education more affordable and accessible to students from less privileged backgrounds. We don’t want our students being crushed by student debt. It limits their opportunities once they graduate.

Finally, we will maintain the highest standards in research, teaching, service and creative practice.

Media Contact

Jane Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications