Architecture program blossoms as enrollment grows

Shauna Stottsberry

Long hours, tired eyes and endless assignments are things often talked about by architecture students – but according to the recent release of student enrollment statistics by Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness, they are gearing up for the challenge.

While Kent State University saw a decline of 736 students, or 2.23 percent in total student enrollment at all eight campuses in Spring 2006 compared to the Spring 2005 semester. But the College of Architecture and Environmental Design reported an undergraduate growth of 8.7 percent, or 52 students, and of 31 percent, or 13 students, at the graduate level since the 2004-2005 school year. The college is working on keeping those numbers on the incline.

Steven Fong, dean of the college, said architecture is at a stage where design and design issues are becoming popular topics on a national level. He gives credit to the nation’s rising interest in design for the increased enrollment.

Other components are responsible for the boost in numbers, specifically the programs and facets the college is connected to.

“The overall enrollment increase is also attributable to a greater variety of offerings and the way people can explore design,” Fong said. “It’s an exploration for way of thinking.”

A feature of the Kent State program that draws students to the school is the Cleveland Urban Design Center. It gives students the opportunity to live in Cleveland while continuing to work toward their graduate degree. Employees of the CUDC can often be found in the studios teaching courses at the center. Working with these real-world professionals in a professional environment gives students an idea of what they can expect of their future careers as architects.

“Students who work with these employees gain confidence by involving themselves in very current issues,” Fong said.

Select architecture students recently took a trip to New Orleans to survey the damage done by Hurricane Katrina. They are now creating a design proposal for devastated urban blocks in the city. The trip served as a step toward the college’s goal to become more involved with real-world situations, Fong said.

The new Master of Architecture professional degree also gives some prospective students a reason to join the Kent State community.

“The success of the new Master of Architecture degree is a strong factor in the enrollment increase,” said Maurizio Sabini, graduate coordinator for the College of Architecture. “We made the move (to add the degree) following a national trend. Architecture programs are upgrading nationally, and the profession is more complex and demanding than ever before.”

The increase in graduate enrollment has also been affected by the student’s chance to study and work in Cleveland. The university’s presence there is something the college will continue to promote.

“The college’s newly updated Web site is responsible for many undergraduate students from other schools coming to Kent for our graduate program,” Sabini said. “Our target (enrollment increase) is around 60 by next fall and an additional 10 to 15 in Cleveland.”

Kent State’s College of Architecture boasts two unique dual-degree programs that no other school in Ohio offers. It offers a Master of Architecture and M.B.A. dual degree program, as well as a Master of Architecture and Master of Urban Design dual degree program.

“These programs provide an additional competitive edge for the school,” Sabini said. “The Florence Program is also building on the traditional strength of our professional program.”

The Architecture in Italy Program has been in place since 1972. It gives students in architecture, interior design, and the graduate architecture and urban design programs the opportunity to study the exemplary architecture that can be found throughout Florence.

“You could say it’s like living in a textbook because of all of the wonderful things that surround you.” Fong said. “The program is a significant attraction.”

The environment of Kent State is a strong factor that draws students to its College of Architecture, and Fong said he intends to keep this environment alive to ensure the continued success of the college and its students.

“Kent State is a relatively small college where students get lots of individual attention and they get to know their teachers well,” Fong said. “In many ways that’s an ideal environment.”

Contact College of Architecture and Environmental Design and School of Art reporter Shauna Stottsberry at [email protected].