November 17, 2023

Educating for Impact Is the Focus for Fall 2023

By, Mo Zell, FAIA

Educating for Impact Is the Focus for Fall 2023

ACSA’s fall activities benefited from the beautiful fall weather and surroundings of Amherst, Massachusetts, and Buffalo, New York. Amidst the falling leaves, more than 300 faculty members convened at our ACSA/AIA Intersections Research Conference and ACSA Administrators Conference to have conversations on topics that are far more sobering. 

I want to acknowledge some of the acute pressures that universities in the United States, Canada, and beyond are facing. The world is witnessing numerous terrible wars and conflicts in many places. A deadly war in Ukraine as the result of an invasion has continued for nearly two years. And since October 7, Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank have been the site of terror attacks and retaliations that are the worst in the region in recent memory, with the loss of thousands of lives, particularly among civilians or non-combatants. 

The ACSA Board of Directors met November 4 and 5, following the Administrators Conference in Buffalo. We had an extended discussion of the role of the organization in reacting or responding to global crises such as war and terrorism, particularly how these issues affect our mission and our vision to “empower faculty and schools to educate increasingly diverse students, expand disciplinary impacts, and create knowledge for the advancement of architecture.” We also discussed how we as an organization relate to our two academic journals, which require a wide measure of editorial independence.   

The world is interconnected, and we are an international membership organization. For the people teaching, learning, and working in our various schools, violence that may seem remote to some people is all too close to others. On university campuses, particularly in the United States, tensions around speaking out about what is happening in Israel and Palestine are high. It has given rise to acts of recrimination on campus that affect people with ties to the many ethnic groups that call Israel and Palestine home. We are seeing acts of intimidation about speaking out, and targeting of individuals for their beliefs. Circumstances on campus are also intensifying pressures on academic freedom. Faculty are being reported for convening difficult conversations that, ACSA believes, ought not be solved by avoiding these conversations but by providing respectful environments for discussion.   

The work of ACSA member schools is focused on educating students for a future that they will continue to change and improve. I want to affirm that there is far more that connects us than divides us as architectural educators and as leaders in higher education. We owe it to our students to support them in their educational development.

As my yearlong presidency continues, I have been emphasizing the importance of architectural educators expanding their impact beyond academia and into the realms of practice, policy, and K12 education, to name a few examples. 

Our Fall Conference focused on applying research about building materials to realms of practice and policy. The faculty and leadership at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, were welcoming hosts, and we are grateful for their support. 

Two weeks later, the University at Buffalo hosted the Administrators Conference, debuting their sparkling new building, and using their local connections to support the conversations that we convened around the topic Expanding Our Impact. Participants had extended discussions about pre-college outreach, about community college transfer, about embracing new outlets for communicating our ideas, and about how partnerships for teaching and research model behaviors that students ought to be able to apply in their future careers. 

ACSA continues to work toward our two strategic priorities: racial and social equity in architecture education as well as climate action. You will hear more from us in coming months about our progress in these areas, and about what we have planned for the 112th Annual Meeting in Vancouver in March. 

We hope to see and hear from you in 2024.