This month, Architectural Record includes its annual ranking of America’s Best Architectural Schools. Categories including best Graduate and Undergraduate programs, as well as Dean’s Assessment and Skills Survey include programs at schools that we all recognize. While I found the information in the article a good read, the statistic that actually made me laugh out loud is listed in the middle of the green box on page 58. According to the article, 1,659 students registered their opinions to statements, including this one:
“Believe they’ll be well prepared for their profession upon graduation”
Really? Would 92% of those of you that are still in school agree that you are being well prepared for the workforce? For me, the more interesting statistic would be to ask those that have recently graduated. How well did your school prepare you? Would we see that 92% drop through the floor?
In my opinion, our education is what we make of it. Studying at one of the Top 10 ranked institutions does not guarantee you a successful career. And we all know incredible designers that have never set foot inside of an architectural school. Additionally, people choose different schools for a myriad of reasons. People may choose a school that is closer to home in order to plug into a support network of family and friends or choose to stay in state in an attempt to control costs. There are the schools that we all recognize for their name, and then there is the ever changing menu of visiting professors at less well known institutions. Perhaps someone you admire deeply is teaching at a university that you have just now begun to investigate.
The issue is not where we choose to study, but what is being covered once we get there. Our education cycles haven’t gotten any longer (or shorter, for that matter), but it seems that there are ever more complex and time consuming subjects that our institutions are all but required to address. Perhaps the most obvious of these are the changes in software instruction, digital modeling and digital fabrication techniques. In particular, the rigors of digital technology proficiency have become so great that some schools, like The University of Michigan, have separated the more intensive DigiFab classes from the standard curriculum, creating a separate Master of Science specialization in Digital Technologies major. With all of the time spent with these new technologies, traditional drafting techniques are rarely covered with the intensity that they once were, and one has to ask the question; What else has been supplanted to make room in the curriculum? I would guess that the vast majority of us have left (or will leave) school with just a single semester of Professional Practice study.
In closing, I would like to pose a few questions for you. If you are still studying, either at the undergraduate or the graduate level, what is it that your school does really well? Conversely, what could it improve upon? To those of you that have recently graduated, what do you think you professors excelled at, and what do you think your respective schools may have missed. How well ARE you being prepared, or how well WERE you prepared for the realities of work within our profession?