August 06, 2010

Architecture program earns accreditation

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The architecture program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in now part of a small and elite group.

The program has earned formal accreditation from the National Architectural Accrediting Board, meaning those who graduate with a master’s degree from the program can, after completing an internship lasting about two years, sit for the architect licensing exam.

“The accreditation is a very positive and strong endorsement of our faculty and students,” said Walter Wendler, professor and director of the School of Architecture.

The accreditation is for six years. It is retroactive for three years to the time SIUC initiated its master of architecture program and continues for three more years. Wendler said this means that approximately 25 students who completed the master’s program, along with about a dozen currently completing their graduate degrees are eligible, upon internship completion, to take the test to be licensed architects in Illinois.

“What’s phenomenal about this is that 15 years ago, architecture was a two-year degree. Because of the hard work of the faculty and the very good leadership of Terry Owens, the former director and current interim dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, and by Paul Sarvela, former dean and now vice president for academic affairs, we have come very far, very fast,” Wendler said. “We became a bachelor’s program in 1995 and three years ago, added the master’s. It’s two steps past remarkable and a real testament to everyone involved at how quickly and well this program has advanced. The faculty played an absolutely essential role and our students deserve credit too. Last year the freshmen entering our program had an average ACT score of 24.55.”

There are only about 120 institutions in the United States offering the professional architectural degree, a requirement for the accreditation, according to Wendler.

The undergraduate program has an enrollment of about 280 and has shown consistent growth, limited primarily by selective admissions due to limited resources, Wendler said. There are 32 students enrolled in the fall graduate program.

“Interest in the architecture program has continued to be strong and we think it will climb even higher now that the program is accredited,” Wendler said.

The School of Architecture has about 20 full and part-time faculty members. The master’s program runs 15 months straight rather than two years with summers off like most programs, making it not only a high-quality program but a cost-effective one, Wendler said.

The accrediting board visited SIUC in February, viewing an extensive gallery filled with student work and studying the program’s compliance with 34 accreditation requirements.