The Harvard University Graduate School of Design’s Alumni Council is pleased to honor four students with the 2021 Unsung Hero Book Prize. This year’s honorees are Bailey Morgan Brown MArch ’22, MDes ’22, Heidi Brandow MDes ’21, Mary Taylor MUP ’21, and Kathlyn Kao MArch ’22.

The Unsung Hero Book Prize celebrates GSD students who act in selfless ways to make the School a better place. Deserving students are nominated each spring by fellow GSD students, faculty, and staff, and winners are selected by the Alumni Council. Prize recipients are recognized with a book of their selection by the Alumni Council, with a second copy donated to the Frances Loeb Library with a bookplate commemorating the awardee’s service to the GSD community.

Established in 2006, the Prize is now in its 15th year. This year, the Alumni Council received 48 nominations for 31 students. For the first time, the nomination pool included recognition for two student organizations: the African American Student Union and AfricaGSD, which put forth Notes on Credibility in June 2020.

The four 2021 Unsung Heroes have been instrumental in creating community during a year of virtual instruction, building connection and engagement however possible. These women also work tirelessly to elevate the perspectives of women and BIPOC in design, and they have shown leadership in their many roles—including teaching assistant and student government representative—at the GSD.

Bailey Morgan Brown is from Fort Gibson, Okla., and is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Oklahoma State University before becoming a public high school teacher. Bailey is a dual-degree student in the Master of Architecture II and the Master of Design Studies programs with a concentration in History and Philosophy of Design and Media. Her research explores property law in the U.S. and its impact on housing development in tribal nations. She has served in student government as a representative on the Harvard Graduate Council, as a Class Representative, and as the Master of Design Studies (MDes) Liaison to Student Forum. She also serves as a teaching fellow in the Harvard College and as a teaching assistant in the Master of Design Studies program. Bailey’s nominators wrote:

  • “Bailey consistently goes above and beyond to help new students get their bearings and navigate the GSD. She shares her experiences and knowledge willingly and offers helpful tools, tricks, and best practices openly. Bailey embodies servant leadership.”
  • “Bailey has gone above and beyond in trying to connect returning and incoming students together during a zoom/virtual semester. She has set up numerous events and occasions for students to reach out and connect, within her own degree program as well as across the school in general. Her reach isn’t limited to just her classes—she had admirably tried to connect students from across classes, semesters, incoming as well as outgoing.”

Heidi K. Brandow (Diné & Kānaka Maoli) is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work is centered on the inclusion of Indigenous people and perspectives in the development of ethical and sustainable methods of creative engagement. While at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Heidi has pursued projects that consider the future possibilities and existence of the Diné people in a post-extractive industry landscape through the exploration of Indigenous knowledge and plant ecology utilized in the Diné textile trade. Heidi’s most recent research project, “Reconfiguring Histories,” challenges current museum collections methodology through the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives and the development of alternate and augmented forms of provenance. Heidi is a co-founder of the Harvard Indigenous Design Collective, an organization that recognizes and promotes design by and for Indigenous communities as foundational to the history, theory, and practice of design fields. For the past academic year, Heidi has served as the Chair of Information for the Harvard Graduate Council. She received her undergraduate degree from the Institute of American Indian Arts and studied industrial design at Istanbul Technical University. Heidi’s nominators wrote:

  • “Heidi has worked tirelessly to increase Native student enrollment at the GSD, as well as elevate the visibility of Native women in design. She is an incredible person to work with, and a shining example of selfless service to one’s community.”
  • “Heidi has been active both as a founder of the Harvard Indigenous Design Collective, recruitment liaison for the GSD, and contributor to the studio curriculum as a TA. Heidi has helped give a voice to designers and practitioners both at the GSD and beyond through event planning and discussion.”

Mary Taylor is originally from Ann Arbor, Mich., and studied architecture at Hampton University prior to moving to Pittsburgh after graduation. She arrived in Pittsburgh because of the UDream Fellowship at Carnegie Mellon University’s Remaking Cities Institute, a fellowship program for architects, designers, and urban planners of color. She spent five years in Pittsburgh in various community development positions before arriving at the GSD in 2019. Mary is a second-year urban planning student in the Housing, Community, and Economic Development concentration, and she is also the Diversity Committee Resident Adviser and a teaching assistant. Mary’s nominators wrote:

  • “Mary continually goes above and beyond to create a space that considers the mental health and well-being of GSD students, especially students of color. Her contributions on the Diversity Committee, vital role in coordinating the HUPO Engagement Retreat, and general class conversations demonstrate a deep commitment to doing so, even in a virtual environment.”
  • “Mary is one of the most supportive and giving people I have met. She constantly devotes her own precious free time and labor to help other people. One example of this is she organized a collection of mental wellness resources for MUPs. She has a fierce commitment to equitable design and including diverse perspectives and inspires me to be a better designer.”

Kathlyn Kao is a Master of Architecture candidate, a research assistant for the GSD First Generation Initiative, Bloomberg City Leadership Initiative, and the Loeb Library Building for Tomorrow Project. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and is a registered architect in New York with a range of professional experiences including DiMella Shaffer Associates, Christoff:Finio Architecture, and artist Do Ho Suh. Her interests are at the intersection of design, art, politics, and post-colonial studies. Kathlyn’s nominators wrote:

  • “Kathy has selflessly and single-handedly hosted regular Zoom meetings with our cohort to get to know one another and feel less isolated during these trying times; through trial and error, she established a tech infrastructure that would be able to accommodate the different geographical needs of our international community and advocated for an improvement of conditions for all students. She later became our class representative, which is a role she’s fulfilled exceedingly well by continuously answering our questions, and highlighting relevant resources that we may have missed. She’s been a natural leader, a resource, and a nurturing member of our cohort who has taken it into her own hands to foster our distant community in these trying times. Without her enthusiasm, warmth, and tireless efforts to support and bring people together to no gain of her own, we would not be the community that we are today.”