ACSA Wants to Enable Change in Architecture Curricula, Policies, and Procedures
The year ahead promises to be unlike any we have experienced in architectural education. While often invoked, the words “unprecedented times” are truly apt. Coming on the heels of last spring’s abrupt shift to online courses and studio delivery, and a summer that provided few opportunities for a break in intensity, some may feel like they are running on reserve power. In this new reality, we must seek ways to recharge while we also look for new ways to do our work in the context of the current public health emergency of COVID-19 and an overdue reckoning with systemic racial injustice. The convergence of these two crises demands change – where the need for change has long been ignored. ACSA’s work in the coming year will generate resources and opportunities in support of this change.
July 1, 2020, initiated a new cohort to the ACSA Board of Directors to focus on our ongoing and new initiatives. We welcome Sharon Haar (University of Michigan) as Second Vice President; Antje Steinmuller (California College of the Arts) as Secretary/Treasurer; Gundula Proksch, (University of Washington) as At-Large Director; and Sara Taketatsu (American Institute of Architecture Students, AIAS Vice President) as Student Director. Robert González (University of New Mexico) moved to the role of First Vice President, and Rashida Ng (Temple University) shifted to Past President. We offer our sincere thanks for the contributions of those completing their board service: Branko Kolarevic (New Jersey Institute of Technology), Nichole Wiedemann (University of Texas at Austin), Beth Lundell Garver (Boston Architectural College), José Gámez (University of North Carolina at Charlotte), and Adam Fogel (AIAS).
Given their exceptional contributions over the past year, and in particular the last six months, I must also recognize and thank ACSA’s Executive Director, Mike Monti; the organization’s three Directors: Eric Ellis, Danielle Dent, and Kendall Nicholson; and the remarkable staff: Allison Smith, Carol Mannix, Michelle Sturges, Amanda Gann, and Edwin Hernandez. Their energies over the past seven months have supported the work of the organization and our members in innovative and important ways, seeding idea exchange in the move to online instruction and helping us navigate the moving of ACSA’s operations and interactions to virtual spaces. I cannot overstate the level of commitment and effort that these individuals have put forth on your behalf during these extraordinary times.
I feel exceedingly fortunate to follow Rashida Ng as ACSA President. She provided significant leadership for the organization’s renewed commitment to equity and inclusion. With her encouragement, from January through August, a core group of staff and volunteers expanded their knowledge and insights on racial (in)justice through work with a specialized trainer, Heather Hackman. This effort has enabled the organization to sharpen its focus on racial equity and justice in architectural education, leading to the midsummer release of our Call to Action to Seek a More Equitable Future.
This academic year, and in the future, the organization’s racial equity work will be supported by our three Program Committees. Chaired by Lauren Matchison (University of Southern California), ACSA’s 2020-21 Leadership Committee will examine assumptions about what makes a successful career for architectural academics and how ACSA’s programs and procedures can support a more racially just approach to this question. ACSA’s Education Committee, chaired by Alexis Gregory (Mississippi State University), will explore the question, “What are the barriers and what models exist to equitably include voices of BIPOC students and faculty in the policy and curricular decision-making of schools?” Chaired by Christine Theodoropoulos (California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo), this year’s Research and Scholarship Committee will work to advance scholarship on equity and justice in built environments through documentation of processes and outcomes highlighted both within and beyond ACSA venues.
All remaining 2020 ACSA-supported member interactions will take place online. I encourage you to watch for a new set of ACSA’s online discussions this fall. The intent is for these events to continue to provide forums for expanding dialogue on key themes around racial justice and architectural education, faculty advancement, online and hybrid education models, and program assessment. ACSA’s two conferences held each fall, Intersections (the fall research conference in collaboration with the American Institute of Architects) and the ACSA Administrators Conference, will both move to fully online formats and offer what we hope will be refreshing alternatives to traditional in-person conferences. ACSA leadership is still considering the best mode for delivering the 109th Annual Meeting and anticipate an announcement in the next few months. The summer 2021 ACSA/EAAE Teachers Conference, planned for Brooklyn, NY, promises to be an extraordinary opportunity to interrogate curricula for climate agency.
In my brief tenure as ACSA President, I have heard from numerous faculty and administrators about the trials of our new reality. Whether it is finding time for walks to restore ourselves, meeting with others to discuss the impact of many simultaneous forest fires on the air and life quality in California and the Pacific Northwest, exploring the means to integrate COVID-19 and racial equity more fully into our pedagogy or discussing ways to conquer the sense of uncertainty that the pandemic brings, we need to find strength through our shared commitment to advance architectural education. In the coming year, as we seek to identify more diverse curricular offerings, more equitable ways to deliver those offerings, and support for more diverse faculty and ways of teaching, I encourage you to bring your voices to ACSA’s various venues.
ACSA’s agenda for the year ahead is ambitious and challenging. As I anticipate the work we have laid out, I look forward to interacting with many of you to improve the quality of the processes and outcomes of our collective efforts.
For now, I wish you all a safe and engaging fall term.
Founded in 1912 by 10 charter members, Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit association of over 200 member schools in several categories. These include full membership for all accredited programs in the United States and government-sanctioned schools in Canada, candidate membership for schools seeking accreditation, and affiliate membership for schools for two-year and international programs. Through these schools, over 5,000 architecture faculty are represented. In addition, over 300 supporting members composed of architecture firms, product associations and individuals add to the breadth of interest and support of ACSA goals.
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