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. Every design
studio from second through sixth year in Architecture and second through fourth year
in 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 1:15/18. For graduate classes, the faculty to student ratio is about 1:5
Finally, our built sustainable design projects such as TERRA and the RZP offer opportunities
for students to design and build sustainable projects. This is an extension of the
focus on sustainability throughout the three degree programs.
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, 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 (17-19). Some
are transfers from another major but they must start in our first year so they might
be older (early to mid 20's). A few have been non-traditionally older. We currently
have four students age 40 or older. Remember, you should look at learning as a life-long
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 has a few come back to school
after age 40.
Where do most Architecture and Interior Design students come to the University of
Most students come from the Mid-South area. We have also had students from Missouri,
Maryland, Illinois, Louisiana, Texas, and Ohio as well as a number of foreign countries.
What is the average length of time it takes a student to complete each of your degree
M.Arch – 2.5 years from the time they take their first M.Arch course.
BFA in ARCH – 4 years from the time they take their first ARCH course.
BFA in IDES – 4 years from the time they take their first ARCH course.
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.
BFA in IDES – About 10 students start each fall. Of these, we generally graduate 9 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.
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
go on to pursue their doctorate in other areas, a couple pursue a City Planning degree
and two entering MBA programs.
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.
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.
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 related design firms or organizations.
BFA in ARCH - Virtually 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
BFA in IDES – A professional internship is a required part if the 100% 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. Several faculty members
are also registered interior designers and certified city planners.
How many students can live in the Architecture + Design Living-Learning Community?
Our two Architecture + Design Houses are a real asset to the students residing in
each as well as the many other students who spend time there studying and working
with the residents on projects. Eight students can live in the Women's House and
eight in the new Men's House. Since we opened the A+D Houses (the first academic
unit on campus to do so), we have had 35 female and 20 male students reside in the
Are there Graduate Assistant and undergraduate Student Worker positions in the Department
Yes, we average two or three undergraduate student workers per semester. Virtually
all of our M.Arch students have an assistantship, either full or partial. Some of
these are on-campus positions, some are within the Department of Architecture, 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 have talked with the alumni office about setting it
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.
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 R3 (Reduce,
Reuse, Recycle). We also have an Honors group. Our chapter of Alpha Rho Chi is inactive.
More information on each may be found on the Student Organizations page.