High Energy Excellence | School of Architecture | SIU

Southern Illinois University



High Energy Excellence

Prepared by SIU School of Architecture Faculty and Staff

Universities face ever-increasing challenges to their budgets. Declining state support, a shrinking availability of high school graduates, increased costs and competition, and ever-increasing indebtedness of graduating students are all part of the challenging equation.  But, there are bright spots on the horizon at SIU Carbondale.

SIU Carbondale's School of Architecture (SOA) faculty, staff, and students have worked diligently to build a program that will serve the people of southern Illinois and the midwest, with quality professional offerings for those interested in becoming licensed to practice architecture.  And make no mistake, it is a team effort. 

A decade and a half ago architectural offerings at SIU were limited to an Associate’s degree originally established in 1954 through the Vocational Technical Institute under the direction of Dean Ernest Simon, charged by then President Delyte Morris to build technical programs that would serve the people of southern Illinois. And, in a remarkable, focused, nearly historical effort, they did.

In 1995, the pre-professional Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies was established to offer more in-depth pre-professional architectural training. In 2007, a new Master of Architecture degree was founded and became a candidate for accreditation by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), the group that reviews and certifies the 154 architecture programs in colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada.   

Since 2007, three teams from the NAAB have visited the Carbondale campus to assess the quality of the School of Architecture.  This is essential for students. Without the NAAB-accredited professional degree, licensure is impossible.   An accredited degree is step one on the road to licensure.  Steps two and three include participation in the Intern Development Program and successful completion of the Architect Registration Exam. These three legs of the stool are essential to be licensed as an architect.  Such licensing provides a means for state oversight in protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the people who occupy buildings of every kind in our communities and cities.

The most recent accreditation visit occurred in February 2013, and the report from the visit was received August 5, indicating an 8-year accreditation, the maximum achievable.  The process examines 32 aspects of the program's performance. For each measure, three possible “grades” are recorded:  “Meets Goal”, “Does Not Meet Goal,” or “Meets Goal with Distinction.” 

SIU’s architecture program was marked as “Meets Goal with Distinction” for six criteria, making the program seventh on the list of 42 schools reviewed in the last two years, and 5th among publically supported institutions.  Harvard’s program met 5 goals with distinction. Further, of the same group of 42 schools nationally, only 5 schools had no “Does Not Meet” grades for any criteria.  Carbondale had only a single criteria marked as “Does Not Meet”.

Coupled, these two indicators provide a quality index when comparing the number of criteria not met against those met with distinction.  On this basis, SIU’s School of Architecture ranks fourth nationally.  The universities of Michigan and Kansas, and Washington University St. Louis, along with other competing Midwestern university programs in architecture all fall below the standard set by SIU’s School of Architecture.

Of the 42 schools reviewed in the last two years, the average number of “Not Met” criteria was 3.5, while 3.79 were met with distinction. 

The tuition cost to attend the architecture program at SIU, including the undergraduate degree, was just under $32,000 in 2012.  The average cost to attend the three other schools in the top four was over $91,000, an increase of $59,000 or 190% over SIU’s cost.  These figures reflect in-state tuition rates at all institutions. 

This places SIU ahead of many competing schools in excellence and cost effectiveness, and it shows in enrollment growth. The graduate program posted an increase from 38 students in fall 2012 to 73 in fall 2013, an increase of 92.1% in graduate enrollment.  Total enrollment for the School of Architecture’s four programs was 400 students one year ago.  It is 440 as we head into fall 2013, an increase of 10%, bucking national trends. 

John K DobbinsJohn K. Dobbins (left), the head of the Master of Architecture program is proud of the program’s rapid progress.  “We have all worked hard to achieve this milestone,” he said.  He continued, “I knew we would be successful, but for our faculty and students to be recognized by the NAAB for such distinction, especially when compared to the national schools that we are in the company of, is truly satisfying and remarkable.  I am pleased to be associated with the program and all that it has accomplished.

While the School of Architecture is proud of the accomplishments of the program, faculty, staff, and students all share a sense of optimism regarding the attainment of a full eight-year accreditation.

Norm LachNorm Lach (left), former chair of the Illinois State Architectural Licensing Board and a professor in the School of Architecture said, “It is important for the school to do well in meeting national accrediting standards.  I am proud of the School.  For 40 years I have watched it grow, seen graduates leave and become leaders in the profession and always hoped for an accredited professional degree.  Now we have one, and the quality of it is outstanding as evidenced by this review.  We have many first generation college goers compared to programs that cost significantly more, and have been in existence for over a century.  I consider us to be a shining star.”

Students also value the accrediting process. John G. Svast III, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, who served a tour in Iraq as an explosives specialist said, “The quality of the offerings is excellent. As a non-traditional student with a wide range of life experiences, I feel like I fit in well.  I was challenged but worked hard, as do most of my classmates.  I am now in the graduate program and feel that from my two years of professional experience at Dewberry, an architecture firm in Chicago, I am receiving an excellent education.”  

Interior Model of Performing Arts Center by John Svast

Image of John Svast’s proposal of a theater interior for a new Performing Arts center on the Carbondale campus. Photo from the School of Architecture Archives

Ben Dockter, Architect, SIU GraduateBenjamin Dockter (right) completed the professional examination process this year, nine years after he enrolled as a freshman at SIU.  The national average for completing all requirements for licensure is over 14.5 years.  He stated, “The program prepared me very well.  I was challenged by good professors who cared about me as an individual, and who worked hard to make sure I had a good experience in the program, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels`.  I did.  It served me well in the practice setting in Springfield, and I felt well-prepared to sit for the ARE.”                  

The markets for architectural interns are currently hard-pressed, and have been for the last four years. Prior to that, Lach asserts that he “…was able to find intern positions for any graduate of our four-year program who wanted one.” In addition, placements in graduate schools are excellent. “We send students to the University of Illinois, the University of Michigan, Syracuse, Rice, Clemson, Texas A&M, the University of Virginia, University of North Carolina, and a powerful list of the best universities in the nation,” added Lach. This, too, is an indicator of the quality of the architectural program at SIU.

Some forecasts about future employment for architects have been dismal. One study, by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, rates architecture as the worst profession, with unemployment of recent graduates at almost 14%. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for architects in the second decade of the 21st century will grow by 24%. This projection occurred in spite of a lackluster construction industry during the past five years.  Architectural enrollment at every school in the country struggles.  Many schools report drops of anywhere from 5 to 15%.

The School of Architecture, through campus support and aggressive recruitment of community college graduates, fueled by strong articulation agreements both in-state and with neighboring states, has kept enrollment fairly stable in a time when 10 and 15% declines are evidenced nationally.  In fact the 2012 graduating class from the Master of Architecture program included four Rend Lake College graduates who transferred to SIU through an articulated 2+2 experience -- no time or hours lost -- and then went on to graduate from the Master of Architecture program in the same cohort as students who began as freshmen at SIU.

An increasing number of our students desire SIU for study in the professional program. The SOA provides one of the most cost effective programs in the nation. Coupled with the NAAB recognition of program strength, the availability of assistantships, and the prestige of SIU generally, the school is widely perceived to be a “Best Deal” by many students. 

In addition to the campus-wide cost effectiveness of SIU, the School of Architecture's leadership, under then Director Terry Owens and Dean Paul Sarvela, designed the accredited program for completion in 15 months rather than the traditional 24 months.  Continuous non-stop enrollment from June through the following August allows a fast, cost effective educational experience.   Students become “income producers” nearly a year ahead of students at competing schools of architecture. In addition, it allows heightened use of the facilities in Quigley Hall on the Carbondale campus.  Moreover, “The configuration reduces the number of faculty that must be committed to teaching in the graduate program,” according to Dobbins.

Quigley Hall South WindowsQuigley Hall on the SIU Carbondale Campus

Quigley Hall is home to the School of Architecture at SIU. Photos from the School of Architecture Archives.

Professor Jon Daniel Davey's Kid Architecture is in its 25th year!Cairo Youthbuild

In addition to the excellent professional education that is offered at School of Architecture, summer programs, such as Kid Architecture (left, above), have been in existence for 25 years, under the leadership of Dr. Jon Daniel Davey.

Outreach to southern Illinois and the extended communities in the rural parts of our state, is multiplied by the granting of research and service contracts such as those administered by three faculty in the school intended to address workforce development issues in Cairo (right, above). The U.S. Department of Labor awarded $727,557 in funding over three years to the Delta Center, Inc. The School of Architecture is a central partner in that process.  Three professors from SIU School of Architecture: Shannon McDonald, Chad Schwartz and Laura Morthland are a part of this award with many other participants including retired Professor Robert Swenson.

Erik Illies conducts post-storm assessments in Harrisburg, Illinois.Southern Illinois is subject to diverse natural disasters that create challenges for people in various communities.  Faculty and students in the Architecture program responded immediately to the Harrisburg tornado, contributing building and planning insights and expertise under the direction of Dr. Davey.  In the image at the left, Eric Illies, a graduate of the Master of Architecture program, conducts post storm assessments in Harrisburg while working with Professor Jon Daniel Davey.

Likewise, the flood in Olive Branch created an interdisciplinary response from various schools on campus, and provided aid and insight to a community suffering losses difficult to imagine, and was addressed by a campus-team of faculty including Dr. Craig Anz and others from the School of Architecture.  Pictured below is a planning meeting of professionals, faculty, and community members. 

Students and community members in Olive Branch, Illinois

This fall, the School of Architecture will offer its first online courses that will lead to the accredited Master of Architecture program delivered through Distance Education. Slated to begin in mid-August along with the rest of on-campus courses, the online offering will also be completed in less than the normal two-year time frame.  Twenty-five students have enrolled in the inaugural class.

Dr. Walter V. Wendler, Director of the School of ArchitectureThe faculty and students of SIU Carbondale's architecture program are proud of the work they produce. They take pleasure in the fact that we serve the rural communities of southern Illinois in addition to the major metropolitan areas of our state and nation. SIU's architecture school reaches out to the people of southern Illinois. Director Walter Wendler said it this way, “We have a responsibility to our neighbors, but we have the additional responsibility to our profession and our students.  I am proud to be associated with an institution that works hard to address the complex needs of our diverse constituencies, but never more proud than when the energy of a first rate faculty is focused on an excellent educational experience for our students.  It brings a university to life.”

While the news in higher education in many parts of the nation is gloomy, the School of Architecture at SIU Carbondale is a bright spot on the landscape.