A St. Louis native, now based in Chicago, Tiara Hughes is a Senior Urban Designer at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), an adjunct professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), a Commissioner with the City of Chicago Landmarks Commission, and a real estate professional. She is a devoted activist, educator and advocate for underrepresented communities and voices, and currently serves on the national board for NOMA. Tiara's personal experiences in the industry along with her passion for advocacy led her to establish a national research initiative called FIRST 500 in 2018. As the founder and executive director of FIRST 500, Tiara travels the country to raise awareness of the importance of Black women architects throughout history and their contribution to the built environment. Tiara is a believer in giving back to her community, serving as a co-leader of SOM's ACE Mentorship program in Chicago. As a designer, Tiara is driven by creating work that emphasizes greater socioeconomic equity and cultural awareness. She believes "Ultimately our efforts to positively impact communities of color will expand outward and evolve our academic institutions, our firms, our industry and by extension, our communities."