Master’s degree expands architecture program offerings

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Building on a tradition of undergraduate education that spans more than 20 years, the Department of Architecture and Environmental Design (DA+ED) offers the professional Master of Architecture (M. Arch.) degree starting this fall 2014.

The graduate degree program had achieved the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) Initial Candidacy status in August 2013 and is projected for “Initial Accreditation” in 2017. The program provides a curriculum structured around the NAAB Students Performance Criteria in the context of the BGSU “University Learning Outcomes” and caters to the department’s strengths and aspirations. According to Dr. Salim Elwazani, professor and former interim chair, the master’s degree applies the “4+2 model” for completing an NAAB-accredited professional degree in architecture.

“Obtaining a degree from an NAAB-accredited program is a milestone requirement for becoming an architect licensed to practice architecture in the United States,” Elwazani said.

BGSU’s undergraduate architecture program, which was initiated in 1992, leads to the Bachelor of Science in Architecture, the pre-professional degree in the field. Adding the master’s tier was a natural progression for the program since this presented an opportunity for seamless professional education in the way of fulfilling the requirements for architectural licensure, Elwazani explained.

The M.Arch degree is a two-year, 52 credit-hour program that builds on the four-year pre-professional B.S. in Architecture. Students with a four-year degree in another field may be admitted to the program with limited standing until specific prerequisite courses have been completed.

Personal attention is at the core of BGSU’s program, Elwazani said. “The program provides a quality approach to education and balances the development of student knowledge and skills with the cultivation of professional values and leadership abilities.”

Students are immersed in the technical exploration of materials, structure and sustainability in the context of the technical design, as well as the historical, urban and preservation milieus of buildings and cities. Also integrated into the curriculum are entrepreneurial theories and strategies for advancing architectural design and practice. A distinctive feature of the program is applied entrepreneurship, which requires an internship in an organization with significant entrepreneurial initiatives.

Completing an internship is a part of the journey toward licensure. Aspiring individuals are required to complete 5,600 hours under the national Internship Development Program (IDP). Completing a part of these hours in a well-defined architectural setting is required. However, the program provides for diversity of exposure and flexibility in the work context by recognizing work completed at engineering, interior design, or similar allied design settings. Recognition also extends to volunteering and supportive work such as that associated with Habitat for Humanity or special international disaster help work. As required by NAAB, the program has a coordinator to help guide students through the IDP requirements and to assist with implementation.

Architectural licensure, which is a handled separately by each state, is predicated on passage of the Architectural Registration Exam that is synchronized across states by the National Council of Architectural Registration Board, Elwazani said.

The next step in the DA+ED M.Arch. accreditation process is the Continuation of Candidacy site visit by an NAAB team, anticipated for late March 2015. Based on an Architectural Program Report submitted by the DA+ED, the team will assess the program’s fulfillment of accreditation conditions through components of curricular structure, student learning outcomes, facilities adequacy, financial support and the like.

“This will be an important step for our program,” Elwazani said. “Accreditation is the primary means by which programs assure quality to their students and constituents."