Master’s degree in architecture approved by trustees

A new, multidisciplinary master’s degree program in Architecture is awaiting approval by the state Board of Higher Education after being endorsed Aug. 4 by the Board of Trustees.

If approved, the program will be the first at any public institution in New England to offer the degree required for obtaining a license to practice architecture. Based in the Department of Art and Art History, the program 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. Student 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 UMass Amherst proposal has the potential to create a “new model for architectural education.”

“This is clearly a program that has not only brought people with similar interests together but it has also encouraged students and faculty to work across traditional disciplines,” says Ron Michaud, chairman of the Department of Art and Art History. “The collaborations that have occurred in preparation for the program have benefited our students tremendously. … What better way for them to develop an understanding and appreciation for what each of them brings to a project than to work collaboratively while they are here?”

For the first few years, admission will be limited to 8-12 students per year. A three-year program will be available to students whose undergraduate 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 progress of the pilot program’s first class.

“This is the kind of thing a comprehensive university does well and it makes perfect sense to take best advantage of this setting to bring these students and faculty together,” says Michaud. “The real benefit will be realized in the coming years as our graduates are working on behalf of the Commonwealth and our partners throughout New England.”