The ongoing struggles in the world’s economies has produced several innovations in the field of Architecture. One important change has been for professionals and students to seek more interdisciplinary skills that better prepare them for these inevitable economic shifts. Schools have responded in kind, defining those skills in either intellectual, analytical terms (i.e. teaching students how to better critically analyze situations while eschewing superficial “theoretical” approaches) while other schools have emphasized a more practical approach.
InSB exemplifies the latter: a program that combines all aspects of AEC (Architecture, Engineering, Construction) into a single curriculum for both undergraduates and graduates. Founded by Tabitha Ponte and co-founder Arturo Vasquez, the school has an ambitious mission: to offer a truly integrated AEC education that is tuition-free.
It begins with a curriculum which the school has retooled from traditional models. While still under development, the contours of the program it has a definitive approach. For undergraduates, “All students who enter the program, ideally students interested in all facets of AEC, will begin with architectural and structural design and analysis, building systems and sustainability, and will move into practical skills development like documents and administration.” These foundational years are complemented by the last two years which build upon these skills through actual work in firms, as well as investigations that develop students’ own strengths and interests. The goal is to produce professionals who possess the intellectual and practical abilities to solve complex spatial issues. The graduate program is even more self-guided, under three main course areas: “Advanced Human Capital + Team Structures”, “Advanced Project Deliveries + Contracts”, and “Advanced Business Development + Management.” Central to both programs is a mission shaped by a commitment to incorporating AEC into a single educational model rather than continuing the specialized approach seen in schools today. As Ms. Ponte observes, “Significant money is wasted due to this fracture. If it were not this way, not only the project (the Owner) would win, but all parties involved would too. Everybody wins.”
How can the school be tuition-free? That depends upon the core values of the school. which in this case believes in a different approach to tuition’s purpose and its source. Explains Ms. Ponte: “I personally believe tuition is mostly to cover administrative costs and payroll. Yet AEC as an industry is a very powerful and wealthy machine. It moves a lot of capital – most of the GDP in any economy. We intend to tap into this power and wealth to simply displace the economic burden. This means that the education is being paid for in a different way.” What’s more, she continues, “Existing University institution’s cost increases are at about 4.8%, more than double the country’s regular inflation rate -recorded at about 2% in February 2013. We will not increase the costs of the school except maybe at the regular inflation rate to meet general increasing costs.” That said, the school does charge an administrative fee of $1000 per year for undergraduates and $2000 per year for graduates. There is also the Exam fee of $125 and $250, respectively.
Of course, the success of this program will rest on the visionary quality of its students and the faculty. As to the faculty, it is comprised of members from both the Executive and Advisory boards, whose professional and educational experience promise a wide range of perspectives to students. To this will be additional professionals and professors specializing in different areas of AEC. Interestingly, the school will not institute tenure positions for faculty, instead relying on the continued satisfaction of students to determine who continues teaching. Most classes will also be team-taught to provide different practical as well as analytical perspectives.
Sound interesting? The school is now accepting applications for its founding class.
[Full disclosure: David Basulto, founder of ArchDaily, is a member of the Advisory Board]