POSTED: Thursday, August 22, 2013 - 4:00am
UPDATED: Thursday, August 22, 2013 - 4:04am
BATON ROUGE, LA — The National Architectural Accrediting Board, or NAAB, has officially reaffirmed accreditation for the LSU School of Architecture, granting the professional bachelor and master of architecture programs eight-year terms of accreditation. This new, maximum term of accreditation is effective now through 2021.
NAAB is the sole agency authorized to accredit United States professional degree programs in architecture. As most state registration boards require licensure applicants to obtain degrees from NAAB-accredited programs, LSU School of Architecture’s reaccreditation at the highest possible term is a crucial success. The bachelor of architecture program at LSU is one of 50 programs accredited by NAAB and is the only accredited program in Louisiana.
“I am really proud of the faculty, staff, students and alumni who have supported the school in recent years,” said School of Architecture Professor and Director Jori Erdman. “Together, we successfully improved and solidified the structure of the school as well as reinforced our already strong programs.”
The accreditation process is ongoing and requires architecture programs in the U.S. to meet a number of steps stipulated by NAAB, including periodic cycles of self-study, peer reviews and visits.
In March 2013, an NAAB accreditation committee spent four days observing and reviewing the graduate and undergraduate architecture programs at the LSU College of Art & Design. The visiting team of volunteer practitioners, educators, regulators and students evaluated student performance in three main areas: critical thinking and representation; integrated building practices, technical skills and knowledge; and leadership and practice. Student work was exhibited in Atkinson Hall, where committee members observed a variety of projects. The committee prepared a Visiting Team Report that assessed the school’s progress since its previous accreditation and determined whether the school continues to meet NAAB conditions and criteria.
Erdman was named director of the School of Architecture in January 2009 and has worked to focus faculty on improving student design quality and skills. As a result, there has been a transition in about 25 percent of School of Architecture faculty in the past six years. The NAAB Visiting Team Report reflects that the changes in faculty have been an effective improvement.
“There is a clear direction being set with a new, but cohesive, team,” the summary report stated. “Students were excited about their professors and staff. It is evident that students are engaged and creative. Studio assignments appear to be challenging, requiring a great deal of critical thinking and research skill: basic requirements for future leaders.”
The report declared four NAAB criteria as conditions met with distinction: communication skills, fundamental design skills, use of precedents and community and social responsibility.
In particular, the team was impressed with the Communication across the Curriculum, or CxC, program: “This program, which we understand is unique to LSU, provides students with additional support in developing their communication skills, including graphic, oral, written and IT methods, and will be invaluable as the students grow into leadership roles whether in their profession or in their community.”
The team was also impressed by the school’s collaboration with other disciplines on campus and stated that the Coastal Sustainability Studio “is to be commended and is certainly a highlight of the program’s initiative to collaborate with other disciplines.”
The team was encouraged by comments from the new dean, Alkis Tsolakis, “suggesting the investigation of a shared foundation year among schools in the College of Art & Design that holds potential for future multi-disciplinary actions.”
The team encouraged the school “to investigate additional inter-disciplinary project opportunities, especially given the proximity to the Interior Design Department, as well as the School of Art.”
The School of Architecture received positive feedback on its studio-based international projects and international study opportunities and was commended for its undergraduate community outreach experiences, such as the Mid-City Project.
While the report declared diversity and graduate-student community outreach as areas in which the school needs improvement, the team was impressed by the number of students involved in the National Organization of Minority Architect Students, or NOMAS, and applauded the support network for students of diverse backgrounds.
“The focused efforts of the administrative staff to recruit minority students and to reach out to high school students with the one-week summer program deserve special recognition,” the report read.
An area of previous concern was Americans with Disabilities Act compliance issues in Atkinson Hall, which is being addressed with $1.5 million in upgrades that include adding an elevator and improving the restrooms. These upgrades are scheduled to be completed by Labor Day 2013, although construction is currently behind schedule.
“Overall, we are pleased with the assessment provided by the report and are confident that we will easily be able to address the details of the not-met criteria as well as the causes for concern in the coming years,” said Erdman. “In fact, we have already been able to begin addressing concerns in our course work this semester.”
A full copy of the National Architectural Accrediting Board Visiting Team Report will be available for download at http://design.lsu.edu/architecture  in the near future.