NOBLESVILLE – Columbus’ architectural legacy is adding a new chapter.

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education has unanimously approved Indiana University’s proposed master’s program for architecture, which involves the classes being taught at the IU Center for Art + Design Columbus.

The program is expected to start in the fall of 2018 with about 20 graduate students, and as many as 40 enrolled in subsequent years, said Lauren Robel, IU provost and executive vice president.

Students will utilize in their studies the city’s more than 65 examples of Modern architecture that include the works of renowned architects such as I.M. Pei, Eliel Saarinen, Eero Saarinen, Kevin Roche and Harry Weese. Their works have brought international recognition to the city and are popular tourist attractions.

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Approval came Thursday during the education commission’s meeting at the Ivy Tech Community College campus in Noblesville.

“This will be an excellent and innovative program that will be wonderful for our students and also wonderful for our partnership with Columbus,” Robel said.

Columbus education and government leaders were pleased with the decision and the ability for the program to move forward.

“I’m excited and grateful — grateful because so many people worked so hard to make this happen,” said John Burnett, president and CEO of the Columbus-based Community Education Coalition.

It was the education coalition that pitched the idea of the Master of Architecture degree program to IU in 2015, as an extension of the university’s collaborative creation of IUCA+D in Columbus in 2011.

Education coalition leaders have said that the architecture program aligns with its push for more higher education in the region to make a difference in people’s lives.

Although IU announced the proposed program in Columbus in August, months of negotiations and collaboration with Ball State University was required, because the Muncie-based university was concerned about the impact on its own longstanding architecture program.

However, the two universities reached a six-point agreement that established boundaries for the schools’ architecture programs, and established several collaborative efforts regarding architectural archives and research.

“This is the next big step on this journey to really focus on the opportunity to have design and design thinking become even more and more pervasive in the community,” Burnett said.

Local leaders also said they consider the program’s approval a tremendous opportunity for the city.

“Now is the time to think big about what the potential can really be,” said Rick Johnson, a Community Education Coalition board member. “Because an architecture degree in Columbus should step up to the level of the Columbus architecture, which means we have to do something really special with it so that it will engage the community in a broad way, and a lot of creative thinking about how we can do something that really makes a difference for Columbus.”

Mayor Jim Lienhoop addressed the commission before it voted and said the city views the Master of Architecture program as an inflection point.

“We can create something in Columbus that simply doesn’t exist today, and that it will go beyond the educational enhancements that have been discussed here,” Lienhoop said.

The mayor told commission members how the architectural degree program fits well with the city’s creation last year of the J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize Competition, and how the five winners’ temporary design projects are expected to draw 10,000 people to Columbus in the fall when they are displayed.

“We think the economic opportunities are significant for us and Indiana,” the mayor told commission members.

The Miller Prize is named for the late community and philanthropic leaders J. Irwin and Xenia Miller. J. Irwin Miller, a former Cummins Inc. chairman, started the Cummins Foundation program of paying architectural design fees for public buildings.

The Miller Prize is the keystone of Exhibit Columbus, which started last year as an annual exploration of art, architecture, design and community. Landmark Columbus, an organization that cares for and celebrates the city’s world-renowned design heritage, organizes the event.

Lienhoop also told the commissioners that the agreement between IU and Ball State to develop a formal partnership with the Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives, potentially to be housed at an IU facility in Columbus, has broader potential.

“The archives we have for Columbus are significant documents in and of themselves, but I don’t see any reason why they could not be expanded for other communities that might not be positioned to host such a facility,” the mayor said.

Another point of the agreement between the universities is the establishment of a joint architectural research center in Columbus. Burnett said conversations have taken place about North Christian Church — designed by Eero Saarinen — serving as the research center.

Next steps

With the approval of IU’s master’s degree in architecture, the next steps can begin.

T. Kelly Wilson, director of IUCA+D Columbus, said the curriculum is in place so the focus now is on promoting the program to attract students.

Applications to be in IU’s first Master of Architecture class in the fall of 2018 will be due this fall. After they’re reviewed, applicants will be notified by March 2018 if they were accepted. Then they have to commit by that April, Wilson said.

Lienhoop said he anticipates that students and faculty in the program will choose to live in Columbus to be close to their studies and teaching.

Promotion of the new program will include the Internet and social media, Wilson said, but also in-person visits to colleges to find talented students.

“A lot of liberal arts colleges in the Midwest are going to get a personal visit,” Wilson said. “I’ve been contacting provosts and deans and presidents throughout the Midwest for the last two years.”

Wilson has been eager for the program’s approval.

“I woke up at 4 o’clock the last two nights in a row,” Wilson said. “I woke up and realized I wasn’t going back to sleep. So, I guess I’m excited.”

Approval process

While Columbus and IU officials were eager for the architecture program to be approved, many concerns and questions had to be addressed first for that to occur.

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, December and February. Each time, Ball State representatives were present for the discussion.

At least once commission member raised questions about whether a second architecture program at a state public university was needed.

The six-point agreement between IU and Ball State assuaged many concerns by establishing territorial boundaries and areas of cooperation.

Ken Sauer, senior associate commissioner and chief academic officer for the Commission on Higher Education, said Ball State was focused on the undergraduate aspect of an architecture degree because it plans to reintroduce its five-year Bachelor of Architecture program, to be offered in addition to its master’s program.

Sauer also said data demonstrates a need for more licensed architects in Indiana, and that architecture programs by both universities would collectively meet the need.

One study he cited during a morning work session, before the afternoon vote, used Bureau of Labor Statistics and Department of Workforce Development data, and indicated that the gap between the needed number of registered Indiana resident architects and the projected number would be 114 by 2024. Another study he cited, by the firm Design Intelligence, which specializes in architecture and design programs and annually ranks architecture programs, said the gap would be 156 registered Indiana resident architects by 2024.

“We are satisfied that a good case has been made for another program,” Sauer said.

Ultimately, the commission agreed.

Commission members commended IU, Columbus and Ball State for their collective efforts in creating a worthy program and reconciling issues in a collaborative manner.

“What comes out of this is something that benefits both institutions, the community of Columbus, the state of Indiana and students. When you have an environment like that good things happen. It’s an example of how we need to move forward in the future on potentially divisive issues or issues where there might be different opinions,” commission member Chris LaMothe said before the vote.

About the program

Indiana University has been approved to begin a Master of Architecture program. Here’s how it would work:

  • Offered through the 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

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

About the agreement

Indiana University’s new Master of Architecture program, approved Thursday by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, includes an agreement with Ball State University. The agreement’s six points are:

  • 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 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.

Next steps

Now that Indiana University’s Master of Architecture program has been approved, the university can move forward with its timeline for creating its first cohort class in the fall of 2018. Here’s a timeline of how that will happen:

  • Applications due this fall for students interested in being selected for the first cohort class in the fall of 2018.
  • Applications will be reviewed during the winter.
  • Students will be notified by March 2018 whether they were accepted into the program.
  • Students must commit by April.

Source: T. Kelly Wilson, director of the IU Center for Art + Design Columbus

Pull Quote

“This is the next big step on this journey to really focus on the opportunity to have design and design thinking become even more and more pervasive in the community.”

— John Burnett, president and CEO, Community Education Coalition

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