Kent State’s CAED dean named one of top 25 architecture educators in US

Mark Mistur, the dean of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, poses for a photo in a meeting room in the architecture building on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018.

Alexandra Sobczak

By 8 a.m., architecture students have seen Dean Mark Mistur well into his first cup of coffee for the day. While working on their projects late into the night, students have seen Mistur leave his office at 9 p.m.

Mistur, Kent State’s dean of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, was named one of the top 25 most admired educators in architecture, interiors and landscape architecture in the United States by DesignIntelligence last month.

DesignIntelligence — an independent company “dedicated to the business success of organizations in architecture, engineering, construction and design,” according to its website — has produced these rankings for the past 19 years.

This year, the company asked current and recently graduated students to list one active educator they most admire and to explain why they chose this person. It received responses from 5,451 students nationwide.

Dedicated to his work, the students and the college as a whole, Mistur is known by his colleagues for being the first to start the workday.

“He’s definitely (on campus a lot) because he wants us to see this program get better (and) grow,” said Joel Dalzell, a sophomore architecture major who works with Mistur through the publications team at CAED.

Mistur received this recognition both this year and last, after starting at Kent State in July 2016.

DesignIntelligence’s website features responses about Mistur’s admirable qualities. Among them are his ability to bridge the academic and practice sides of design, his drive to turn students into leaders and his goal to make Kent State’s CAED more nationally and internationally known.

Mistur began teaching at the School of Architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1983. He served as the associate dean there from 1998 to 2005 and 2009 to 2016, and he was the acting dean from 2008 to 2009. Mistur also worked at three different firms and started his own in 1993.

Because of this, his colleagues say he provides CAED with knowledge that intersects academia and practice.

Brett Tippey, the program coordinator for architectural studies and an assistant professor, said Mistur brings CAED faculty the insight to teach students to become innovative practitioners by balancing these two areas.

“The distinction here and our vision here is not to just develop people for the profession,” Mistur said. “It’s to develop people that are prepared to lead in the profession in a rapidly changing world. … That is part of the academic enterprise … to unleash the creative mind, the critical mind, the ability to have a flexible mind and to be able to frame things in a way that are tied to larger issues.”

Kent State has one of four accredited architecture programs in Ohio — the only one in Northeast Ohio. Mistur said he has a vision of making Kent State well-known beyond the nation’s bounds.

“The strategic ways to move us from basically being a very, very strong regional college to being national and international is to get us exposed to others,” he said. “It’s not a case of making us better. We’re very, very good, but it’s a little bit of a secret.”

To expand Kent State’s reach, Mistur encourages faculty and students to share their ideas outside of the university’s campus. He supports faculty traveling to conferences and sharing their research, students studying across the country and abroad and the college nominating students and faculty for awards.

Tippey said Mistur is “promoting research in a way that I haven’t seen happen in our college before.”

“We’ve always had solid research, but it seems that he’s driving us to get our work out more and in more diverse places,” he said. “As a result, … CAED ends up being seen on a national and international level.”

Aside from the efforts mentioned in his nominations, Mistur said his goals at Kent State so far have been to make CAED more interdisciplinary and to emphasize the importance of both art and science in design work.

Mistur said he believes it is essential to have interdisciplinarity in CAED because the idea of the “master builder” is dead, and design requires a collaborative team to succeed.

“(Mistur) brings … an appreciation, a deep appreciation for all the fields that we represent,” Tippey said about the programs of architectural studies, architecture, construction management, global studies, interior design, health care design, landscape architecture, science in architecture and environmental design and urban design.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s architecture program focused heavily on the science side of design, and Mistur was excited to create a balance between science and art upon joining Kent State.

“I do try to … marry the art and science of all these things and believe there is an art and science to everything,” he said. “And you want to find that beautiful mix of the two — not the compromise of the two, where you’re not quite doing either, but where you’re really doing both.”

Mistur does more in CAED than plan behind the scenes. He said he’s interested in working to expand programs to benefit students, but he also takes an interest in their individual work.

Each year, the architectural studies program holds its spring exhibit, where Tippey invites Mistur to speak to students. Students give the dean respect while he speaks, but then the students realize the dean is also giving them respect in return, Tippey said.

“They see that he’s interested in them, and he’s interested in the work that they’re doing,” Tippey said. “He’s very congratulatory of the work that they’re doing, and they respond … with appropriate gratitude.”

Although Mistur said he felt honored to land in the nation’s top 25 most admired educators for his field, he said his focus remains on his students and CAED. He added he hopes the award will help Kent State expand its reach.

“It was such an honor, I mean, such a surprise,” he said. “And I just want the honor to reflect on Kent State. … If it brings attention to Kent State, I’m very, very happy.”

Alexandra Sobczak is the arts and architecture reporter. Contact her at [email protected].