Dr. Kazique J. Prince Shares Why NI Is Building a Thriving and Equitable Society With Austin Habitat
Q: WHY IS AFFORDABLE HOUSING IMPORTANT TO YOU?
A: Affordable housing is about making certain that we make a place for everyone to have an opportunity and space to create community and belonging regardless of their financial circumstances. If we do not make a place where we all have an opportunity to thrive and live out the biggest everyday dreams, we are leaving out a majority of society who represent the places where innovation and creativity reside. We are not allowed the benefit and privilege to share in the natural genius each community has to offer for our shared benefit and reward. Without affordable housing options, we are more likely to maintain the racial, cultural, and economic divides that separate us and help perpetuate the biases and divisions we experience. Affordable housing is about creating a community where we otherwise would not unless we had the intention to break down barriers and create bridges of growth, access, and change to improve our society.
Q: WHY IS NI PASSIONATE ABOUT AFFORDABLE HOUSING?
A: NI’s passion for affordable housing is directly linked to our pillars of changing the face of engineering and building a thriving and equitable society. Particularly in the Austin area and across the globe, affordable housing impacts NIers, their diverse families and friends, customers, and markets. As a company with aspirational goals to increase our diverse representation and leadership, we understand that affordable housing is a major contributor to higher costs of living and quality of life. If we want to change the face of engineering, we must support and champion organizations like Austin Habitat to create housing and communities to ensure we share in the wealth and opportunities our city offers. If housing is too expensive, the immediate impact is making it difficult for individuals and/or families to live a quality of life and enjoy what the city has to offer. Affordable housing in close proximity to good schools, nutritious food options, safe and security, access to quality healthcare services, and good jobs are all connected. Unfortunately, people are having to be more creative and find fewer affordable housing options further away from the city resources and healthcare services, as well as residing in food deserts with less access to better nutrition. By creating affordable housing within the core of our city, we can provide the access to resources families and communities need to survive and thrive and ensure NI has the opportunity to tap into and identify an educated, talented, healthy, and culturally diverse workforce within our communities. Additionally, as we attempt to attract culturally diverse talent to the area, we want to ensure we have thriving, culturally robust, and affordable living options throughout the city for their social, family, spiritual, community, learning, and professional growth.
NIer’s Building Wall Panels at Their Austin Headquarters
Q: WHAT ARE YOU PROVIDING IN YOUR PHILANTHROPIC EFFORTS IN REGARD TO AFFORDABLE HOUSING?
A: Affordable housing is a relatively new space for NI, who made a $500,000 impact investment loan to Habitat back in May 2020. Additionally, NI recently selected Foundation Communities (FC) as a primary recipient of our holiday giving efforts for the last two years and in the coming year. We invited NIers to provide in-kind donations and supplies to fulfill welcome home baskets for several new residents. NI also awarded FC a $25,000 grant for their out-of-school time learning programs offering reading support, academic assistance, homework help, health and physical fitness education, healthy snacks, digital instruction and exploration time, unstructured outdoor play, and arts and enrichment activities.
Q: Why did NI decide to join the build for unity community collective?
A: In September, NI is celebrating our partnership with Habitat supporting Build for Unity month. NIers have been excited to volunteer their time and provide their expertise on Austin Habitat Build Days with 25 volunteers, which has offered an opportunity for NIers to get involved personally and collaborate physically to build neighborhoods and create community connections. NIers wanted to directly commit their time to being involved in our community.
Kazique and the NI Team at the 2022 Build of Unity Wall Raising Ceremony with Future Homeowners David and Camelia
Q: How does NI stand out IN CREATING more DEI initiatives as an organization?
A: In 2020, NI set a course to achieve aspirational goals to increase diverse representation with 50% of women in leadership and the global workforce. Additionally, we committed to increasing the racial diversity to 13% of Black and 18% of Latinx people in the US workforce. In recent years, we have formed Inclusion Resource Groups (IRGs) for Asian, Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+, women, veterans, and those with different abilities, expanding to Latin America with plans for more globally in the coming years. Admittedly, NI is in the early stages of developing our DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging) initiatives. Leadership has made the commitment to prioritize DEIB through a variety of our corporate impact strategies. NI’s Beloved Community is the strategy to dig deeper and articulate an intentional approach to creating the cultural change needed to achieve our goals and beyond. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a celebrated American civil rights activist and thought leader, introduced the global concept and once wrote: “Our goal is to create a beloved community, and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” DEIB’s work serves to ensure our employees and partners feel welcomed, valued, respected and heard. Our intention is to empower employees to bring their best, most authentic selves to their work each day. We also want to ensure our partnerships with customers, community organizations, and others reflect the values and spirit of our collaborative work together. Our core values have always emphasized constant respect for and dignity of people. Our DEIB strategy also involves ensuring our environment fosters a culture of belonging for all.
Q: WHY DID YOU INVEST IN AUSTIN HABITAT FOR HUMANITY?
A: NIers respect and value the legacy of Austin Habitat’s commitment to end the cycle of poverty housing and fulfill their vision to create “a world where everyone has a decent place to live.” NIers, over the years, have volunteered and committed their time and resources to support Austin Habitat along with the dozens of other corporate and philanthropic leaders. Austin Habitat has a reputation as a community leader in encouraging volunteer activities, advocacy for affordable housing, professional and leadership development through AmeriCorps and Habitat Young Professionals, critical home repair, housing and financial counseling services, and additional resources to the community. The comprehensive series of services and resources make Austin Habitat an excellent partner in creating affordable housing across the Central Texas area and across the nation.
Thank you to NI for their support that helps us build more affordable housing in Austin!
Kazique and the NI Team Building Community on the Austin Habitat Construction Site With Mayor Adler