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K-State Today

December 16, 2021

APDesign associate professor LaBarbara James Wigfall honored by NOMA

Submitted by Thom Jackson

Wigfall photo

LaBarbara James Wigfall, associate professor of landscape architecture and regional & community planning at K-State's College of Architecture, Planning & Design, was honored by the National Organization of Minority Architects, or NOMA, as Midwest member of the year for 2021.

Wigfall is a recognized scholar on the history and present-day planning needs of African American towns and settlements in the United States. Notably, she has worked with the community of Nicodemus for more than 30 years and was instrumental in the townsite's designation as a National Historic Site.

She inaugurated the K-State student chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects, called NOMAS, in 1990 and has been its dedicated advisor, accompanying students to the conference and preparing them for the NOMAS annual competition. Under her leadership, the NOMAS chapter has established a legacy of submitting and facilitating a NOMA session for students at the international conference, beginning with the first student-led session on emerging technologies for professionals at the Los Angeles conference in the late 1990s.

A member since 2008, Wigfall has served many roles, including Midwest university liaison on the NOMA Board. Before joining NOMA, she did dedicated work toward diversity, equity and inclusion in the professions of architecture and planning.

Professionally, she has served the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., on the national design competition committee to commemorate Women in Military Service for America at Arlington National Cemetery. In 2015, she led a student competition team that was a finalist for the National Park Service Parks for the People competition, which was focused on expanding access to our national parks for all people.

Wigfall has made substantial contributions to Kansas State University, including leading the planning and programming for its multicultural student center by NOMAS, the renaming of a city street leading to campus as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, and planning/designing the future Coretta Scott King Gardens of Engagement by the NOMAS. It was the chapter's community engagement session that prompted the design firm HOK | St. Louis to voluntarily help shepherd the construction documents and approval process through campus facilities. For that work, the NOMAS chapter won Student Chapter of the Year. She has served APDesign as diversity point person and makes frequent contributions to learning for students, faculty and staff.

Wigfall joined the faculty at Kansas State University in 1987 after 10 years of private practice in Texas and faculty appointments/fellowships at Howard University, University of Texas, University of California, Berkeley and University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. She is the first African American female faculty member to receive tenure and promotion at K-State in 1997, having garnered several K-State awards for distinguished service to minority education and outstanding undergraduate teaching. She initiated the K-State Hazardous Substance Research Center as a strategic planner. Her community service initiatives include projects for Stella, Missouri; Olathe, Kansas; and Newburg, Missouri, highlighting the positive impact of a visioning process on community well-being.

Precursory research on African American communities acknowledges the dynamic role and service cultural landscapes have performed in our nation's history. She expanded this scholarly work in Africa, identifying patterns in the environment that may explain African-American antecedents. Ultimately, her commitment to community empowerment and preservation demonstrates how the cultivation of human and cultural assets serves as a vehicle for building sustainable communities.