Indiana University’s proposal to launch a master’s program for architecture in Columbus will have to wait a bit longer for possible state approval.

The proposal is on the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s agenda for its working session today instead of being up for a vote during the business session. Officials from Indiana University and Ball State University want to share with commission members an agreement struck between the two schools about the degree program.

John Burnett, president and CEO of the Columbus-based Community Education Coalition, the organization that contacted IU about two years ago about starting the Master of Architecture program, said that Ball State has expressed concerns for months about IU’s proposal and how it would impact its longstanding architecture program.

IU’s proposed three-year program would be administered at the IU Center for Art + design in Columbus, with students using the city and its more than 65 examples of Modern architecture as a living lab.

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“We have been working diligently with our counterparts at Ball State University to see if we could reach a mutual agreement that assuaged their concerns. I believe we have reached such an agreement, and we will be sharing that with the commission,” IU Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel said.

Robel, who will speak on behalf of IU at today’s meeting, declined to share details of the agreement ahead of the meeting. Likewise, Ball State declined to discuss the agreement ahead of the meeting.

Ball State spokeswoman Joan Todd said the university has been in contact with IU since the introduction of the proposal.

The two universities requested that the Indiana Commission for Higher Education hear the agreement before voting, and a formal vote is expected to take place at the commission’s March meeting, ICHE spokeswoman Kaylee Showers said.

Columbus and IU leaders are hopeful that approval will be granted.

“We’d be sorely disappointed if it didn’t happen,” Burnett said.

Expanding relationship

Approval of the degree program would represent an expansion of a longstanding relationship between IU and Columbus that includes the creation of Indiana University-Purdue University of Columbus in 1970, and the opening of the IU Center for Art + Design in 2011.

IU President Michael McRobbie announced the proposed architecture program in August at the Greater Columbus Economic Development Corp.’s annual meeting. The program would be offered through the new IU School of Art and Design, but classes would be taught in Columbus. If approved, the program likely would begin in the fall of 2018.

McRobbie said then that Columbus’ Modern architecture, size, fabrication technology at local companies and emphasis on coalition building are assets that would benefit the proposed architecture program.

Columbus education and city leaders are excited about the possibility of starting the architecture program in Columbus and the potential benefits.

Community Education Coalition leaders have stated that the architecture program would align with its push for more higher education in the region to make a difference in people’s lives.

Rick Johnson, a Community Education Coalition board member, said it would tie into the city’s history of using world-renowned architects to design buildings — a process started by the late Cummins Chairman J. Irwin Miller.

Local leaders see economic benefits, too.

“The architectural degree program would be a catalyst for this community — it would be a completely different playing field,” Mayor Jim Lienhoop said. “IU has an international reputation as a research institution and, to me, this could have an economic development impact on more than Columbus — it could be beneficial to the state.”

Lienhoop also said that IU has already talked with Columbus leaders about programs that will help focus attention on iconic structures that could lead to additional interest in architecture in the city, and some help with preservation of the aging architectural works.

“It’s clear that our community wants this to happen,” Burnett said.

The approval process has required patience, though.

“It’s been a bit more of a struggle than we thought it would be,” Johnson said.

Deliberate process

The proposed architecture program first came before the Indiana Commission for Higher Education in October during a subcommittee meeting. It then was on the commission’s work session agendas for November and December. Each time Ball State was present for the discussion.

Burnett said Ball State’s position was that another architecture program at a public university in Indiana was not needed.

While Ball State has raised concerns, IU and Columbus officials believes that the proposed program is different enough not to be a conflict, Johnson said.

However, Johnson said he understands why the commission has moved deliberately in order for all issues to be addressed and for the two schools to have time to reach a mutual agreement.

Lienhoop, Johnson and Burnett plan to represent the city at the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s work session today.

What's next

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s work session today, from 9-11:30 a.m., will include a presentation by Indiana University and Ball State University about an agreement they’ve reached in a proposal by IU to create a Master of Architecture program, that would be administered in Columbus at the IU Center for Art + Design.

The meeting will be in the ballroom of Hine Hall/University Tower at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, 875 W. North St.

The proposal is expected to be included on the commission’s business agenda for its March meeting and be up for a vote.

— Indiana Commission for Higher Education

About the program

Indiana University has proposed the creation of a Master of Architecture program. Here’s how it would work:

  • Offered through the new IU School of Art + Design
  • Three-year degree program, open to students coming from different disciplines
  • The IU Center for Art + Design Columbus would administer the program and teach classes
  • Would utilize Columbus’ more than 65 examples of Modern architecture, its size, its fabrication technology at local manufacturing companies and its coalition building process
  • Students would study abroad late in the second year
  • Would involve hands-on learning that would involve building projects that aid and support the Columbus community’s interests
  • Students will learn how to become entrepreneurs and community contributors

— IU School of Art and Design Dean Peg Faimon, IU Center for Art + Design Director T. Kelly Wilson

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