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
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
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
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
Are there Graduate Assistant and undergraduate Student Worker positions in the Department
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
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.
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.