Architecture program in Columbus closer with agreement

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana University’s proposal to have a Master of Architecture program based in Columbus took a step toward approval with IU reaching a six-point agreement with Ball State University over potential competitive concerns.

If approved by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education at its March 9 meeting, the program would initially bring about 20 graduate students to study in Columbus, said Lauren Robel, IU provost and executive vice president. The program would likely start in the fall of 2018, with as many as 40 students enrolled in subsequent years, she said.

The 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.

“I’m very encouraged,” Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop said¬†after Thursday’s meeting. “At the end of the day, I think we’re going to have a collaboration between the two universities that will serve as an example for others.”

Lienhoop was among a six-member local delegation that attended the commission’s work session at the IUPUI campus in Indianapolis.

Ball State University began raising concerns in fall regarding how the program would effect its longstanding architecture program. However, BSU Provost Marilyn Buck said no further objections would be raised if both universities abide by the agreement.

What Buck emphasized during her questioning by commission members is that IU has agreed not to establish an undergraduate architecture program on any of its campuses.

The Bloomington-based university has also agreed to offer the master’s program exclusively in Columbus, and not attempt to provide related online courses, Buck said.

While those points addressed territorial concerns, the rest of the agreement focused largely on how the two universities can collaborate and share resources.

Broad concepts include allowing Ball State to offer architectural classes at the IUPUI campus, as well as future joint programming and joint facility access, Buck said.

“These are just concepts at this time,” Buck told the commission. “We don’t have a lot of details right now.”

What might be most unique for Bartholomew County is the proposed establishment of a joint architectural research center in Columbus, as well as an architectural archives facility.

Enthusiastic support for both proposed facilities was expressed Thursday by Buck and Robel.

During the hour-long discussion, the only commissioner who expressed reservations about implementing the proposed program in Columbus was at-large member Allan Hubbard.

Due to efficiencies achieved through computer technology, universities are now producing more architects than are needed, Hubbard said.

“I’m concerned that adding another architectural school might be a waste of resources,” said Hubbard, an Indianapolis business owner who headed the U.S. National Economic Council during the President George W. Bush administration.

In response, both Robel and Buck said the proposed school in Columbus is intended to provide a distinctive set of skills that are much in demand nationally.

The provosts quoted an outlook from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development that indicates demand for the proposed school’s graduates will grow by 20.3 percent statewide over the next five years.

The national demand is expected to grow by 7 percent, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, Robel during the presentation.

In addition, Buck said there is virtually no unemployment among those who have graduated from similar programs at other universities.

Lienhoop, who said Ball State places 93 percent of its architectural graduates, said he was impressed with both the knowledge and the unity of purpose that both provosts displayed.

“The universities themselves agree this particular program is worthwhile,” Lienhoop said.

After Hubbard continued to inquire whether the program was an “efficient and effective use of limited financial resources,” Robel agreed to provide him with statistics to address his specific concerns by next month’s meeting.

But two other commissioners, including president Dan Peterson, commended the two universities for working together to develop what they hope would be a renowned, world-class architectural program.

“We are shooting for the best,” Robel said.

Although the program will bring no more than 40 graduate students to Columbus at any one time, Lienhoop said it will also likely bring visiting professors and renowned architects to the city.

Lienhoop said he’s hopeful some of the best minds in the world can be recruited to help address the historic renovation and repurposing of aging buildings in Columbus, as well as create a heightened understanding of the city’s architectural legacy.

About the compromise

An agreement between Indiana University and Ball State University regarding a Master of Architecture program to be based in Columbus was provided Thursday to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

Ball State has agreed not to raise further concerns regarding IU’s proposal, based on the following agreement:

  • The IU master’s degree in architecture, while offered through the IU School of Art and Design, based in Bloomington, will have a primary focus in Columbus. IU will not offer a master’s degree program in architecture in any other community in Indiana, or online. Certain course work toward a degree will be performed in Bloomington and possibly online, but the degree itself will not be offered online.
  • IU will not seek to establish an undergraduate architecture program on any of its campuses. The bachelor’s degree will remain an exclusive offering of Ball State, subject to the approval of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.
  • IU will further discuss providing real estate resources to Ball State. This includes the potential of space on the IUPUI campus to offer BSU classes that are part of its programs in architecture.
  • IU will integrate the Ball State students, faculty and staff working on the campus into the IUPUI campus community. Examples include potential future joint programming, library access, Internet connectivity, parking and recreational programs, as well as access to the IUPUI Student Center and comparable facilities.
  • IU will work with Ball State to identify reciprocal opportunities for students from both universities to take courses and study at the IU facilities in Columbus and Indianapolis. Both universities will establish a joint architectural research center in Columbus.
  • IU will work with Ball State to develop a formal partnership with the Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives, potentially to be housed at an IU facility in Columbus.

The Feb. 3, 2017 agreement present to the commission Thursday was signed by both IU President Michael A. McRobbie and Ball State Interim President Terry King.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.