Building Diversity, Shaping Tomorrow: Meet Our Colleagues Impacting Change with NOMAColumbus

March 14, 2024
Vanessa Lane Marketing and Proposal Specialist

Montel Wells and Cameron Guthrie

We are excited to recognize Montel Wells and Cameron Guthrie for their positions as President and Treasurer, respectively, on the 2024 NOMAColumbus Board! As they step into these influential positions, we sat down with them to explore their vision for NOMAColumbus, the significance of diversity and inclusion in the architectural realm, and their hopes for the future.

What is NOMA and why is it important?

Montel: NOMA stands for the National Organization of Minority Architects and its objective is to create a safe space for minorities and people of different cultural backgrounds to come together and share their professional experiences and knowledge as well as create opportunities for each other. This organization distinguishes itself from other professional groups by fostering open dialogue, encouraging free thought, and facilitating expression of individuals’ roles within the profession and their aspirations for the future.

Cameron: NOMA is not just here in Columbus, it’s a national organization that has been around for 53 years. Even though NOMAColumbus is heading into our third year locally, NOMA has been around for quite some time on a national scale.

How did you get involved with NOMA?

Montel: I was part of the group that started the chapter in the summer of 2021. I had just graduated from my masters program and there were 8-10 of us that were meeting as a group and knew of NOMA but were surprised Columbus didn’t have its own chapter. We took it upon ourselves to create a local professional chapter because we felt a void in the culturally diverse architecture community in Columbus.

Cameron: As an undergraduate at OSU, I attended a few events for the student chapter, NOMAS. Once I heard a professional chapter was starting in Columbus, I was eager to get engaged with the organization.

Tell us a little more about your role on the board and participation with the chapter.

Montel: I stepped into the President role in January but I have been involved on the board of directors the past two years as the Planning Committee Chair, which involved putting on events for the chapter. Our chapter officially became chartered in March 2022 and has grown to 39 members at the end of 2023.

Cameron: This is my first board position with NOMAColumbus as Treasurer. I have been an avid member, getting involved in all our committees leading up to this. We currently have four committees that I want to highlight: Programming, Project Pipeline, Membership and Outreach and finally Budget and Finance, the one I lead. I’ve really enjoyed being a part of Project Pipeline and its mission to celebrate and empower creative young minds in our local communities through design. It supports everyone from elementary and middle school children all the way up to professionals reaching licensure.

NOMAColumbus at the NOMA National Conference

2024 NOMAColumbus Executive Board: Alexis Hoff (right), Montel Wells, Tianna St. James, Cameron Guthrie (left).

What has been one of your favorite memories with NOMAColumbus?

Montel: My favorite memory is attending the national conference last October. It was such a positive experience to connect with other chapters from across the country. While the NOMA network might not be as large as AIA, it is a close-knit family. I know that someone I meet at this conference is going to be there for the next 10 years. The moment you exchange business cards with someone, you’re going to have that connection and they’ll be there to help as you need it. I really want to emulate that energy here in our chapter and have a close-knit community.

Cameron: Mine would have to be volunteering with the design summer camp in 2023, the first one for our chapter. The program introduced twenty 6th-9th grade students to architecture, specifically community development and understanding the needs of a community and how to serve them. We hosted our camp at the Knowlton School of Architecture on The Ohio State University campus. This summer we are excited to host a five-day camp at Knowlton again, July 8th through 12th. We plan to have opportunities for the students to connect with architects and engineers as well as interactive exercises where students can have the opportunity to try their hand at design.

2023 NOMAColumbus Summer Camp

2023 NOMAColumbus Summer Camp 
Usage credit: NOMAColumbus | Photo credit: Knowlton

What are your hopes for the future of NOMAColumbus?

Montel: This year, we really want to focus on providing more professional development opportunities to our members. Whether that’s through speakers, panels, or tours, we want to bring knowledge to our members that can help them grow professionally and that they can bring back and share with their firms.

Cameron: To go along with that, we also want to make sure we can provide resources and study groups for emerging professionals pursuing licensure or accreditations. Personally, my biggest goal for NOMAColumbus is to raise awareness that we are here in the Columbus market and willing to serve those in the profession and the community at large.

Wow! It sounds like NOMAColumbus has a lot of great programs and initiatives going on. For those reading this thinking how do I get involved, what would you tell them?

Montel: Our membership is open to anyone in a design-related field. Our active members right now include mostly architects, engineers and interior designers. You don’t have to be a minority to join, we are open to all. We just ask that you believe in our mission and believe in the benefits of diversity in our profession.

As for events, we’ve had a busy start to the year. We recently went to OSU and reviewed portfolios with students at the Knowlton School of Architecture to help prepare them for their career fair as well as a Game Night and volunteer event with Linden Nursery. One initiative I’m excited about is our Membership Mixers, we started this program last year and plan to continue growing it. The mixers are hosted at different firms each time and allow our members to build their network while also increasing the chapter’s awareness and engagement around the city.

Cameron: If you are interested and want to learn more, feel free to reach out to Montel,, or myself, We would love to see some friendly faces from the Central Ohio community participate in this organization and you can find our upcoming programs on the website. We have plenty of ways to get involved: become a member, attend a social event, volunteer with us in the community, join a committee, or donate to the chapter.