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Frequently Asked Questions

Fifteen Questions from the Memphis Chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) - A Conversation with Michael Hagge, Chair of the Department of Architecture

What sets the University of Memphis Architecture and Interior Design degree programs apart from other schools?
The most identifiable feature is our commitment to community engagement.  As part of this "culture of Engagement" every graduate design studio and every undergraduate design studio from second through fourth year in both Architecture and Interior Design has at least one project per semester with a community partner.  I do not know of any other school with that level of engagement.  Essentially, every semester, 100% of our students from second year up are guaranteed to work in the community.
Another thing that sets the University of Memphis apart is the small size of our department in terms of the number of students.  Because of our size, we are able to maintain an outstanding faculty to student ratio.  With the exception of first year, most undergraduate classes average 8-12 students.  In first year studios, the faculty to student ratio is about 1:15.  For graduate classes, the faculty to student ratio is about 1:5.
Finally, our built sustainable design projects such as TERRA (sustainable design demonstration house) and the RZP (Recycling Zone Prototype) offer opportunities for students to design and build sustainable projects.  This is an extension of the focus on sustainability throughout the three degree programs and the Department of Architecture.
How many University of Memphis Architecture and Interior Design students are employed within one year of graduation?
M.Arch – We have had a 100% post graduation employment rate for Master of Architecture students within one year.  To my knowledge, all are still employed in the architecture field, except for one alumni who chose to leave the workforce after the birth of a child.
BFA in ARCH – An estimated 95% of Architecture undergraduate students are employed within one year of graduation, excluding those who went straight to graduate school.
BFA in IDES – Approximately 90% of Interior Design students are employed in interior design or a related field such as product representative.
Is there an average age of incoming students in Architecture and Interior Design?
Most students entering the BFA programs are just out of high school.  Some are transfers from another major but they must start in our first year so they might be older, maybe early to mid 20's.  A few of our "non-traditional" students have been older, 30's, 40's, and older.  Remember, learning is a life-long experience! 
Some graduate students come in right after earning the BFA or other approved pre-professional degree and are in their early to mid 20's.  Some have worked for a few years and then come into the M.Arch program so they are older.  We have had a few come back to school after age 40.  Again, you are never too old to pursue your dream!
Where do most Architecture and Interior Design students come from to attend the University of Memphis?
Most students come from the Mid-South Region (Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi).  Students have come here from the other border states including Missouri, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, as well as Illinois, Ohio, Maryland, Louisiana, and Texas.  We have also had students come here from countries in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America.
What is the average length of time it takes a student to complete each of the degree programs if they are enrolled full time and start in the fall semester?
M.Arch – 2 years from the time they take their first M.Arch courses.
BFA in ARCH – 4 years from the time they take their first ARCH courses.
BFA in IDES – 4 years from the time they take their first ARCH courses.
What is the graduation rate for each program?
M.Arch – We have not had any students drop out and not return.  So, of those who have completed the appropriate hours, the rate is 100%.
BFA in ARCH – Historically, we start the first year class with 40-50 students and graduate about 10 per year.  Most of the attrition takes place in the first semester of first year.  Since we have implemented several retention strategies with the help of AIAS and our other student organizations, the number of students graduating should increase to 15 to 18 per year.
BFA in IDES – About 10 students start each fall.  Of these, we generally graduate 8 per year.  This does not include the now phased out Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art (concentration Interior Design) previously offered in the Department of Art.  The retention strategies should also help in Interior Design.   
What is the percentage of Architecture and Interior Design students who go on to graduate school?
M.Arch – The M.Arch is the terminal degree so there is no need for these students to go to graduate school unless they want to pursue other areas of study.  We have had three M.Arch graduates go on to pursue their doctorate in other areas, a couple pursue a City Planning degree and two enter an MBA program.
BFA in ARCH – Approximately 50% have gone on to graduate school.  Since the BFA in Architecture degree was implemented in 2000, 100% of graduates that have applied to a professional M.Arch degree program have been accepted and of these, all have either graduated or are on schedule to graduate.  This includes schools all around the USA, literally from coast to coast.
BFA in IDES – I am not aware of any Interior Design students who have attended graduate school since IDES came into the Department of Architecture in 2010.  We would like to see some apply to the M.Arch degree program.
What percentage of Architecture and Interior Design students participated in an internship?
M.Arch – Virtually all have an assistantship and many of these are with local architecture and design firms or with related organizations.
BFA in ARCH - All students wishing to pursue an internship have been successful.  Because of the workload, many students wait until third or fourth year before entering an internship.
BFA in IDES – A professional internship is a required part of the Interior Design curriculum so 100% of the students will have completed an internship before graduation.
Does the Department of Architecture faculty have experience in the private sector?
Absolutely!  In addition to holding the appropriate degree to teach their courses, all of the faculty have worked professionally in architecture, interior design, urban design, city planning, sustainable design, and so forth.  Virtually every faculty member teaching a design studio is a registered architect or is in the process of completing the Architect Registration Exam.  Three faculty members are also certified city planners.
How many students can live in the Architecture + Design House?
Our Architecture + Design House is a part of the University of Memphis Living-Learning Community Program and is a real asset to the students residing in it as well as the many other students who spend time there studying and working with the residents on projects.  It is a duplex townhouse so eight women can live in one half and eight men in the other.  In addition to private bedrooms, each unit has a full design studio on the first floor.  The Department of Architecture was the first academic unit to open a House and since then, we have had 35 female and 20 male students reside in the House.

Are there Graduate Assistant and undergraduate Student Worker positions in the Department of Architecture?
Yes, we average two undergraduate student workers per semester.  Virtually all of our M.Arch students have an assistantship, either full or partial.  Some of these are within the Department of Architecture, some are other on-campus positions, and some are with firms or organizations in the community.
Do you offer study abroad programs and if so how often, where to, and how many students have participated to date?
Yes, we used to have a studio in Vicenza and then one year we were based in Prague.  The maximum number of students we could accommodate in Vicenza was about twelve; in Prague eight. We have not offered the studio recently due to time limitations among faculty but we hope to change that in the next year or so.  We are presently exploring partnership opportunities with universities in the USA and abroad.  Several of our students have participated in study abroad programs through the Honors Program.
In your opinion, what are some reasons the City of Memphis is a good place to study architecture and interior design?
Memphis offers a great urban laboratory, particularly for community engagement.  In addition, we enjoy an exceptional relationship with the Memphis Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.  There are also numerous employment and internship opportunities for our students and graduates.
Do you have an alumni group? 
We have an informal group. We are in the process of working with the alumni office to set it up formally.  People may make donations to the Department of Architecture Foundation.
Are there any set calendars for the coming year?
We set aside the 11:30am-1:00pm time slot every Monday through Friday for lectures, films, presentations, and student organization meetings.  We do not offer any classes during that time period.   We also have special lectures in the evening and often partner with AIA Memphis and other professional organizations to offer lectures and other educational enhancement activities.  Students should check the bulletin boards for flyers and everyone may check the Events section of the website for details.

You mentioned student organizations.  Which ones are active in the Department of Architecture?

We have five active organizations:  American Institute of Architecture Students; Construction Specifications Institute Student Affiliate; International Interior Design Association Campus Center; National Organization of Minority Architecture Students; and Tau Sigma Delta (national honor society).  We also have a Department of Architecture Honors group.  Our chapter of Alpha Rho Chi is inactive.  More information on each may be found on the Student Organizations page.

Thank You!

My pleasure!



The American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) is an independent, nonprofit, student-run organization dedicated to providing unmatched programs, information, and resources on issues critical to architectural education. The mission of the AIAS is to promote excellence in architectural education, training, and practice; to foster an appreciation of architecture and related disciplines; to enrich communities in a spirit of collaboration; and to organize students and combine their efforts to advance the art and science of architecture.

The AIAS is one of the five collateral organizations represented on each architecture accreditation team.  The others are the AIA, NAAB, ACSA, and NCARB.



Student Organizations 


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