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USC Architecture receives eight-year seal of approval

National board grants the maximum term allowed for bachelor’s and master’s programs

Allison Engelby Allison Engel
arch models
A third-year design studio project review takes place in the courtyard next to Watt Hall. (Photo/Sean Miller)

The USC School of Architecture has been granted accreditation for the next eight years — the maximum term allowed — for both its bachelor’s and master’s degree programs from the National Architectural Accrediting Board.

The news was delivered earlier this month and followed a January site visit by a six-member team from the accrediting board.

Dean Qingyun Ma was thrilled by the news.

“To be granted an eight-year term of accreditation demonstrates that the school has excelled in the fundamentals of architectural education and professional embodiment,” he said. “It also recognizes the commitment and confidence in the school’s emerging experiments and innovation for the future of architecture and environment.”

USC’s strengths stand out

USC Architecture is one of the first schools to receive the board’s new eight-year accreditation. Previously, the maximum number of years that could be granted was six. The board also has the option of accrediting a program for a two- or three-year term.

In its report, the visitation team wrote that the strengths of USC’s architecture programs include “a respectful and collegial atmosphere among faculty, students, staff and administration” and “faculty dedicated to teaching, research and mentorship who exhibit diverse work in their academic research and professional practices.”

In addition, the team applauded the school’s “diverse, energetic and engaged student body,” “outstanding off-campus learning opportunities” and “alumni and local professionals [who are] supportive of the school through internships and academic engagement.” Specifically mentioned was the USC Architectural Guild, “which actively provides career planning and services for the school.”

Dean Ma gives thanks

The visitation team spent five days on campus, and several of these were 16-hour days, Ma noted in a thank-you letter to faculty, staff and students immediately after the January visit. He noted that the visit was carefully planned over two years by a core team at the school: Vice Dean Marc Schiler, Professor Amy Murphy (USC’s liaison with the visiting team), Professors Gail Borden and Alice Kimm, administrative services coordinator Jane Ilger and executive director of student services Jennifer Park.

But the effort required the help of dozens of others, including those who designed and mounted the faculty show and the hundreds of linear feet of student drawings displayed in Watt Hall. The Facilities and Shop team, student organizations, the Gamble House staff, alumni, the Architecture Guild and the school’s Board of Councilors were involved. The dean’s thank you letter thanked many individuals who helped plan the visit by name.

Award-winning alums

The USC School of Architecture, which began as a university department in 1916, was the first accredited school of architecture in Southern California. Its 3,000 graduates include two Pritzker Prize winners, Frank Gehry ’54 and Thom Mayne ’69, and an array of other important figures who are advancing modernism, prefabrication, sustainability and innovative urban design.

The school is committed to studying and supporting the city of Los Angeles, recognized as a center of creativity and diversity that claims a double frontier in both America and the Pacific Rim.

The school offers bachelor’s degrees in architecture, architectural studies and landscape architecture, and both master’s degrees and certificates in architecture, building science, heritage conservation and landscape architecture. A Ph.D. in architecture also is offered.

In this year’s national ranking of architecture schools by DesignIntelligence, the USC School of Architecture placed seventh for its undergraduate program and was ranked in the top five in the following categories: design, cross-disciplinary teamwork, sustainable design, construction methods and materials, communication, and analysis and planning.

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