Happy New Year everyone. I hope you enjoyed some relaxing down time over the break, and I expect you are either busy preparing for or–like me–already engaged in an exciting new semester. I would like to take a few moments here to recap some of the ACSA’s fall activities and note what to look forward to this winter and spring.
Administrators Conference: Pathways
In early November, the ACSA Administrators Conference took place on the campus of Northeastern University in a bright meeting space with stunning views of Boston and Cambridge. I would like to thank Dan Adams of Northeastern for facilitating the venue and organizing a tour of this expanding urban campus and the ACSA staff for their deft management of our first fully in-person conference since fall 2019. The large, open room and roundtable organization allowed for presentations, panels, and intimate conversations among colleagues who appeared to be very glad to see one another again. The conference theme, Pathways, seemed appropriate for this venue and moment in time. Frances Bronet, president of Pratt Institute, kicked off the event with a call to architecture leadership to aspire to university leadership–provostial and presidential–arguing that our skill sets and knowledge are critical to higher education as it negotiates our changing spatial, financial, and human-centered dynamics.
Challenges to higher education in general, and architectural education in particular formed the basis of the plenary discussion that I led. At the national level, these include: falls in enrollment; escalating costs and rising student debt; ongoing impacts of the pandemic; student mental health; the slow pace toward achieving racial, ethnic parity in our classrooms; and challenges to the first amendment rights of faculty. In addition to these, architectural education is seeing a challenge to its mission from those who see our role as primarily competency-based skill provision, with the sole metric of success being the fastest route to professional licensure. This is manifested in calls for a four-year Bachelor of Architecture option, architectural firms offering apprenticeship programs to high school students in lieu of college study, and promotion of other “alternative paths” to licensure that might eliminate the requirement for professional education.
Of course, there is much that is going well in our classes and studios: increased focus on collaboration, interdisciplinary teaching and research; advances in teaching and learning culture; the re-visioning of architectural curricula; and the redefinition of the “public interest.” The roundtable discussions that followed in this session focused our attention on how, as architectural educators, we can demonstrate the value of the education we provide while mitigating the burdens of the time and resources it takes to pursue an architecture degree.
The four other panels that formed the core of the conference each addressed a specific theme related to Pathways: what new formats are schools utilizing for hybrid and remote degrees; how are we bringing diverse voices and individuals into teaching; how might we expand outreach to organizations whose missions intersect with our own (Dark Matter University, The Architecture Lobby, NOMA, & US Architects Declare); and how can we scale up the myriad programs that exist for introducing young people to the discipline and profession of architecture?
Each of the ACSA Program Committees this year is addressing one or more of the objectives of the 2022-2025 Strategic Plan.
Leadership Committee: Expanding frameworks for new faculty development. The Leadership Committee is charged with surveying and evaluating new faculty positions aimed toward diversifying faculty and expanding teaching, research, and scholarship on issues of social and environmental justice, racial equity, and community engagement.
Education Committee: Disseminating Best Practices for Successful Community College Transfer. The Education Committee is charged with continuing its work to strengthen articulation between community colleges and professional and pre-professional architecture programs and formulating a plan for a convening of institutions and organizations seeking to advance community college transfer in early summer 2023.
Research Committee: Advancing Scholarship on Climate Action in Built Environments. The Research and Scholarship Committee is charged with assessing scholarly work in the discipline on the intersection of climate action, equity, and social justice in the built environment.
Please assist the work of these committees by participating in their surveys, attending their webinars, and/or participating in their activities at ACSA conferences.
I am half way through my year as president, and still many other opportunities for you to engage with the organization remain:
In late March ACSA’s fully in-person Annual Meeting returns in St. Louis, with keynotes by Topaz Medal winner Sharon Egretta Sutton and the soon-to-be-announced Tau Sigma Delta Gold Medalist, a faculty workshop called Racism Untaught that brings experienced design educators in to help think through equity in the studio and beyond; tours of St. Louis neighborhoods, a steel fabricator, and even the Mississippi River.
We continue our partnership with the European Association for Architectural Education in Reykjavik, Iceland, with the biennial Teachers Conference, which will explore the spaces and pedagogies for developing notions of cosmopolitan citizenship. The host school has given us unprecedented access to the city and its leaders. This June 22-24 event is not to be missed.
Multiple opportunities to volunteer and serve ACSA are available. From NAAB visiting teams to editorial boards and future program committees, we will be posting calls for volunteers now and throughout the winter. Visit our Volunteers page to find out what’s available and how to submit an application.
In closing, I want to acknowledge our Board of Directors for their ability to develop a strong vision for the ACSA and its future. They consistently manifest a commitment and discipline to strengthening ACSA’s impact on architectural education. We have much more planned under our strategic plan, and the board members are excited to share it with you going forward.
Founded in 1912 by 10 charter members, ACSA is an international association of architecture schools preparing future architects, designers, and change agents. Our membership includes all of the accredited professional degree programs in the United States and Canada, as well as international schools and 2- and 4-year programs. Together ACSA schools represent some 7,000 faculty educating more than 40,000 students.
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