Architecture M.A. program wins state approval

By Daniel J. Fitzgibbons

The state Board of Higher Education voted Oct. 19 to approve a new, multidisciplinary master’s degree program in Architecture in the Department of Art and Art History. The program was previously approved by the Board of Trustees in August.

The program is the first at any public institution in New England to offer the degree required for obtaining a license to practice architecture. The course of study will be organized around a cross-campus curriculum involving more than 30 faculty in studio art, art history, public history, landscape architecture and regional planning, building materials and wood technology, engineering and management. Students may also take classes through the Five College consortium.

By offering a broader education to aspiring architects, the program is intended to train professionals who are better prepared to serve the public good and are more connected to society and its changing technological, environmental and sociological demands. In 2002, the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), charged with approving degree programs, said the proposal has the potential to create a “new model for architectural education.”

For the first few years, admission will be limited to eight to 12 students per year. A three-year program will be available to students whose bachelor’s degree is not in architecture. Eligible students who have completed a BFA in design at UMass Amherst and other students who earned a four-year undergraduate degree in architecture, or a five-year NAAB-accredited bachelor of architecture from other institutions, can complete the program in two years using a “4+2” track. The program requires 75 credits with one semester of professional internship experience.

The NAAB, which has reviewed the program proposal twice and approved it two years ago for candidacy status as a master of architecture program, will conduct a site visit to campus this fall. An accreditation visit will follow in 2006 or 2007, depending on the progress of the pilot program’s first class.