Columbus is playing a key role in the growth of a new school at Indiana University, and has the potential to play an even greater part in the future, school officials said.

The IU School of Art and Design, created by joining the Department of Studio Art and the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design, plans to use the IU Center for Art + Design Columbus to host its proposed master’s of architecture degree.

A joint presentation about the new school and the proposed degree was made Thursday to the IU Board of Trustees, which conducted meetings in Columbus for the first time. Trustees and IU President Michael McRobbie met at the Columbus Learning Center on Thursday and Friday.

The proposed master’s of architecture degree will be considered by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education on Oct. 24. If approved, IU will be allowed to move forward with the program, which would likely launch in the fall of 2018, said T. Kelly Wilson, director of the IU Center for Art + Design Columbus, which opened in 2011.

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The joint presentation was made before McRobbie, the board’s vice chair and secretary, and five of the seven trustees during the Academic Affairs and University Policies Committee meeting. A crowd of more than 40 people listened to the presentation in a classroom reconfigured for the meeting.

Wilson described four assets of Columbus that he identified when he came to the city to build a design program, which he thinks also benefit the new school and proposed master’s program:

65 or more examples of Modern architecture.

Remarkable fabrication technology at local manufacturing companies.

Scalable size — Columbus is small enough to learn the key players and issues quickly, so lessons learned can applied to larger communities.

Coalition process — A partnership between public and private entities and individuals that work on common problems.

“With Columbus I had advocated the importance of a residency program — a visiting program for outsiders — to learn of Columbus and to build projects and do things that combine art and design in the city,” said Wilson, who noted that five years of work have gone into creating the master’s program.

The master’s degree would be a three-year program, and would be open to students coming from different disciplines, said Peg Faimon, dean of the new school.

One of the program’s features would be studying abroad late in the second year.

The idea, Wilson said, would be for students to study for three weeks at a time the architecture and design of seven cities. In addition to Columbus, potential study locations include New York, Rome, Berlin, Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Buenos Aires, Beijing and Hanoi.

“You teach in the streets and you walk them up to and through these buildings, and you teach them how to read the conversation in and between buildings,” Wilson said.

Master’s students also would receive hands-on learning by building projects that aid and support the Columbus community’s interests, Wilson said.

Ultimately, the program will teach students how to become entrepreneurs but also community contributors, Wilson said.

The IU School of Art and Design plans to enhance partnerships and collaborations, especially in Columbus, and strengthen connections between the Bloomington and Columbus campuses, Faimon said.

For example, IU students will have an avenue to participate in Exhibit Columbus next fall.

Also, the School of Art and Design is offering a new undergraduate program, a Bachelor of Science in comprehensive design, which will include a semester of classes in Columbus during a student’s junior year, Faimon said.

Trustee Phil N. Eskew Jr. said Columbus is held in high regard, with qualities many other communities can’t offer. He said the master’s program strengthens the relationship between IU and Columbus, and can lead to more collaborations.

“This is just one step. I think there is the opportunity to have other degrees here, to build additional building on the campus, to see the growth happen that make it accessible to more than just the citizens of Bartholomew County,” Eskew said after the meeting during an Indiana University Alumni Association reception at the IU Center for Art + Design Columbus.

Columbus’ collaboration with IU has been critically important in the development of the art and design center in Columbus, and the master’s program, trustee Pat Shoulders said during the meeting.

Shoulders invited John Burnett, president and CEO of the Columbus-based Community Education Coalition, and Rick Johnson, president and CEO of Columbus-based Johnson Ventures, to address the trustees at the end of the meeting.

Burnett recalled a meeting with McRobbie eight years ago that showed the opportunity for greater connection between IU, and particularly Bloomington, and Columbus. That led to the creation of the IU Center for Art + Design Columbus.

“Today what we see is the opportunity to take this collaboration — the public, private and social sector — and create a catalytic opportunity, and that is this master’s of architecture program,” Burnett said.

“Education is something this community and this region really needs, and it makes a difference in the lives of the people who live here. … IU plays a big role and we’d like that role to continue to be bigger,” Johnson, an elected member of the Indiana University Foundation Board of Directors, said after the meeting.

Trustees' itinerary

The itinerary for the Indiana University Board of Trustees while they held their meetings in Columbus on Thursday and Friday.

Wednesday evening

Social dinner at Tre Bicchieri


Executive session, lunch and committee meetings at Columbus Learning Center

Indiana University Alumni Association reception at the IU Center for Art + Design Columbus

Social dinner at Henry Social Club


Committee meetings and lunch at Columbus Learning Center

What's next

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education will meet Oct. 24 and consider the proposed master’s of architecture degree that would be offered through the IU School of Art and Design, but administered by the IU Center for Art and Design Columbus.

If approved, IU will be allowed to move forward with the program. However, the program likely wouldn’t begin until the fall of 2018.

Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at or (812) 379-5639.