Chair's Message

A Design School with A Conscience

I fundamentally believe that an architectural education is a powerful gift. It has, without question, changed my life. Being able to create something, present it to an audience, and put it into physical being, is what makes this experience wonderful!

Since its inception, architectural education in this country has focused on the “what” and the “how,” but we haven’t been as good in communicating the “who” and they “why”—we haven’t asked: who are we doing this for? And why are we doing it for them? These types of questions are needed to augment architectural education and to demonstrate to our students that they have the responsibility and privilege of asking these fundamental questions. The Architecture Department at UNM has always asked the “who” and the “why,” especially in ways that help community members not typically served by architecture, with the hope that we will increasingly serve them as architects who look like them.

Diversity in the Student Body

This 2023-24 academic year, the Department of Architecture serves a student undergraduate population that is 52% Hispanic, 7% Indigenous, and 26% White; and our graduate program is 37% Hispanic, 9% Indigenous, and 34% White. While other institutions wrestle with the challenge of how to diversify their student body, we are already quite diverse. We are very proud of this, and the fact that our students are the future face of architecture.

As a program, we are facing the important challenge of how to help these future professionals succeed in the field of architecture, or in any other chosen field after they leave our school. One of the ways we do this is to value their life experiences as valuable knowledge. We have built into our courses and curricula many ways for students to write about, reflect on, and share their experiences. We believe to design more inclusive spaces we need to demonstrate to students how to value their histories and experiences beyond those that have been typically studied in architecture schools.

We have a distinct responsibility as a state institution to do so as we are the only National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) accredited professional degree program in the state. We firmly believe that the future professionals we educate should also be good citizens and productive members of their communities—we are happy to see that our students are already on this pathway to be great future leaders in their communities.

Taught by Models of Success

We have an amazing group of full-time faculty members who are very accomplished within the greater field of architecture. Two received the Rome Prize in Architecture, one received the League Prize from the Architectural League of New York, one that has received a national teaching award, and another has received national design recognition. Some of our faculty serve on national boards of architectural organizations and journals. Altogether, they are highly productive in their research endeavors and design work.

Our faculty looks like our students, and they value student success. They work hard to make sure that we are creating the best learning environment for our students to excel in. We also have an amazing group of part-time faculty members who are directly engaged in professional practice and provide valuable insight into the current state or architectural offices through their experience in the field.

Architecture is For You and Your Community

It is not uncommon to see course offerings in our school that have some component of community engagement. This is something that has long been a part of the history of architecture at UNM. We believe that great design comes from what you value as a responsible designer and, provide with the resources you have. Opportunities are embedded in every design problem. We do our very best to teach our students how to leverage those opportunities into design work that is seen as exemplary among the greater discipline while serving the unique and varied communities of New Mexico.

As an Indigenous person who began the architectural education path in the Fall of 1989, I saw nothing Indigenous in my education. I was presented with no examples of Indigenous architecture. I instead faced obstacle after obstacle in the form of academic “gates,” thresholds that I needed to get through to proceed in the program. For years, this was the norm in architectural education. The system was constructed to be exclusionary. The perception was that only the brightest and the best students could be architects. I persevered because I had an unceasing desire to be in the discipline of architecture. I needed to be an Indigenous person within the dialogue of the greater profession.

As the Chair of the Department of Architecture, it is my goal to create an environment for our students to excel in and for them to not be excluded by the kinds of hurdles I experienced. Ultimately, inclusion is removing obstacles to success. Other than meeting grade minimums in required courses, there are no other “gates” for students to get through. We have a wonderful staff of advisors that help get students through our curriculum. And as the Chair, it is also part of my role to approve course equivalents and substitutes, and we often find creative ways for students to get their degrees, even if life hands them some challenges. We want all our students to succeed.

Chris T Cornelius (Oneida)
Chair, Department of Architecture