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Monday, December 14, 2009

Architecture School Dean Speaks Out, Architectural RECORD interviewed a number of architecture school deans to gain insight on the challenges they face

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architect/artist: mixed
interview title: Architecture School Dean Speaks Out
interviews compilation no: T-25
interview format: text
date: August 2002
appeared in: Architectural Record
interviewer: John E. Czarnecki, Assoc. AIA
photo by:

courtesy: http://archrecord.construction.com/people/interviews/archives/0208Deans.asp

Interview Details:



RECORD interviewed a number of architecture school deans to gain insight on the challenges they face ["Deans: bureaucracy navigators, hustlers, administrators," AUGUST 2002, PAGE 86]. Here are extended excerpts of their responses.


Should the dean of an architecture school be a licensed architect?

Wayne Drummond, University of Nebraska
"Philosophically, the dean of a school of architecture should be licensed in the profession, but we have some excellent deans who are not."

Bernard Tschumi, Columbia University
"The quality of a school or of a dean has nothing to do with the fact the dean is also a practicing architect or not. There are plenty of historical examples showing top schools in either situation."

Joseph Bilello, Ball State University
"A dean of a single discipline college—a college of architecture alone—can use the experience of going through licensure and practice to great advantage both experientially and from a standpoint of legitimacy. It also helps to have a very healthy appreciation of the rigors of practice. I am very respectful of my colleagues who have been able to sustain their practices. Having the highest credentials possible both professional and academic is helpful no doubt. Ultimately, however, it comes down to what you do and how well you do it in respect to others at all levels from bottom to top."

George Ranalli, City College of the City University of New York
"I believe passionately that a dean of a school of architecture should be a practicing architect. There have been several models posed in recent years like the CEO type or historian/theorist type. I don't believe that to be a good choice. The knowledge a practicing architect brings to the daily decisions of curriculum, faculty hiring, technology, educational pedagogy and other important items need the input of someone working in the field, hopefully at a high level. Otherwise education becomes detached from the profession. It is essential to make a strong relationship with the world of practice and construction. It is also in the best interest of the students to be connected to the profession so that they can understand the choices possible in the different tracks that firms take. This can be best exemplified through the leadership of the school by a strong dean with an excellent reputation as an architect."

Marvin Malecha, North Carolina State University
"If the College is a single discipline organization, then I believe it is necessary for the dean to be registered. In the second case, which is the situation I am in, the dean of the College of Design oversees a multitude of disciplines and the importance of registration is significantly diminished. However, as is the case at NC State, I do believe the director of the school of architecture needs to be a licensed architect. Also, in the case of my position, since we are a College that is directed at the design professions, I do believe it is necessary for the dean to have accomplished the professional credential that relates to his or her design profession. The dean must be a highly regarded professional in order to lead. Licensing is only one aspect of this necessity."

Tom Fisher, University of Minnesota
"It is helpful for a dean to have practiced at some point in his or her career, since the job demands that you understand the needs and culture of architectural practice. However, I do not think you need to practice while you are a dean. Indeed, the job is so demanding in terms of time that I don't think anyone can do it justice and still maintain an active practice. At the same time, having some connection back to the profession or discipline is important to maintain your intellectual life. Given my journalistic background, I have a somewhat atypical background for a dean, but I have not worked in architectural firms since 1982. Nevertheless, I consider my writing to be my "practice."

Bob Mugerauer, University of Washington
"I actually don’t have a professional degree. My Ph.D. is in philosophy. Typically I work in my professional capacity as a consultant with an architect. I think what I bring are two things. One is heavy-duty research capacity, and the University of Washington has always been a first class professional school. And the other thing is my core activity is all interdisciplinary integrative. What we’re finding, and I think the reason that I’m at least a decent dean, is that the real world doesn’t want to see things divided. What the partners of the firms and the CEOs are looking for in the world is to get things done in teams. So, it seems it’s collaborative teamwork that’s really required."

Eric Owen Moss, Southern California Institute of Architecture
"For me, it’s important that the person who runs the school is a practicing architect in the most ecumenical way. It has to do with someone who in a very fundamental way has been involved in the process, in the discussion, in the debate about the meaning of architecture and the content of architecture. I’m not sure you can do this if you’re not working on architecture in some way."

Some deans are well-known nationally and internationally as high-profile practicing architects. Does it help the school to have a dean that is well-known? How does a dean’s personality or notoriety impact a school?

Wayne Drummond, University of Nebraska
"There’s been very famous architects go to very prestigious schools and not serve them well. And some unknown people serve institutions very well. My job is to be low profile and maximize the value of the faculty. I firmly believe that a school is stronger if the 30 or 40 faculty are well-known rather than one person that is known."

Stan Allen, Princeton University
"The model of the dean’s practice is important as a role model for what happens in the school. Notoriety per se is not an issue. It has to be a case-by-case basis. It’s more driven by ideas and issues than personalities. It has more to do with the urgent issues in practice and education than with the personality."

Bernard Tschumi, Columbia University
"I don’t think it matters a bit. You don’t need a celebrity. The while thing is about creating a scene, creating a culture."

Bob Mugerauer, University of Washington
"I don’t subscribe to the great person theory. The deans’ mission really is to see that what the whole group is trying to do is accomplished. If that’s the case, then the dean is not somehow an indispensable super champion. The dean has to be somebody that can be effective connecting with the public and communicating and raising funds and making sure the faculty, as much as possible, are getting what they need to do their jobs."

How does a dean with an active architectural practice find the balance of time between practice and leading a school? Does one inevitably lose out to the other in terms of time and focus?

Roger Schlunz, University of New Mexico
"It’s very difficult in an institutional setting to not have a full-time dean. Where you have full-time practitioners as deans, a lot of concessions are being made one place or the other, and these are often negotiated and it’s easier to do that in a private university. Most state schools don’t have that luxury. Very few people are capable of serving two masters equally well. My concern is that choice—if I have some time I have to make a choice—do I make it operationally in development to advance the school or do I hustle some more work for my office."

Stan Allen, Princeton University

"In my case [leads a practice, and began as dean this summer], I see it more on a shifting time scale where the first couple of years are going to be intensively devoted to the school. My hope will be that it will be possible to step back a bit after three or four years and get back to spending more time in practice. You need to put the time where needed when it’s needed."

Bernard Tschumi, Columbia University
"If a dean wants to run a practice at the same time, they must be prepared to work 70 hours a week, nearly every week of the year."

John Meunier, Arizona State University
"I have found it both hard, and even inappropriate, to practice architecture at the same level of commitment as an administrator as I did as a faculty member. Both the time demands and the potential conflicts of interest were problematic."

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