ARCHITECTURE GRADS SLAM PROJECTED PROGRAM CHANGES

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By Maurice Cacho

Changes are being proposed to Ryerson’s undergraduate architectural science program, but the Ryerson Architecture Alumni Association warns some of these changes could hurt current and future graduates because the industry has not been thoroughly consulted.

The RAAA, a volunteer group composed of graduates who work in the industry, is worried the changes may reduce future graduates’ practical skills and level of specialization because the program is being “diluted.” “There’s that concern that when they enter the field, they’re not going to have the skills a graduate five to 10 years ago had,” said Eric Shelton, VP finance for RAAA and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Urbana Architects Corporation.

“You’re sending out graduates who might not be industry-ready,” said Shelton.

The changes come at a time when the School of Architectural Science prepares for the introduction of a new masters program. Currently, undergraduate students take two years of general courses and then specialize in one of three streams — project management, building science or architecture — for their final two years.

Students must also complete a thesis project in their final year. Under the proposed changes, general study will last for three years, students will specialize for only one year, and they would not complete a thesis. Provost and VP Academic Errol Aspevig said he believes the chair of the school of architecture is fully aware of the requirements of the industry. Architectural Sciences Chair George Kapelos asked the Eyeopener to leave a meeting between faculty and the RAAA Monday in which the concerns were being discussed. Kapelos would not make himself available for comment before or after the meeting, and did not return requests for interviews on Tuesday.

According to Tyler Forkes, who works for Ryerson as the alumni relations executive director, the meeting went smoothly. He said the RAAA appeared satisfied with the outcome. However, Shelton disagrees, saying that he was frustrated after the meeting. “Our concerns were really pushed aside,” Shelton said. “No one was really pleased with the outcome by the end of it.” Anthony Celetti, RAAA president and former architecture course union president, said his organization is happy a masters program will be introduced. However, he believes the school is proposing changes without doing significant preparation with the industry.

“The consensus is that all of the alumni support the masters program,” Celetti said. “We just feel that not enough consultation with industry has been done regarding those two streams.

“If you took a group and you had three years of generalized aspects as opposed to two years generalized aspects… you can easily gravitate to the fact that these graduates may not be as specialized as they could be.”

Celetti said he hopes the school will listen to the industry’s concerns. Don Hall, a Ryerson graduate and VP facilities, planning and development at Bluewater Health in Sarnia, shares similar concerns. Hall, who hires architecture students, admires the level of education and practical experience Ryerson students acquire.

“I think the (two years general studies and two years specialization) works really well, especially for those in project management and in building science, because it really does solidify those graduates who aren’t going to go on to a masters of architecture,” Hall said. “If you only have the one year, it could potentially be detrimental towards those students… They really need to look at that.”

He hopes the school consults with the architecture industry before making a final decision on the changes. “I’ll be honest, I’ve hired other graduates and you don’t get the same thing. (Ryerson students) far excel,” he said. “The point I’m trying to make is right now there’s a really comfortable level with the nature of the students and the way they’ve been trained that always puts them in a different category. “We just have to be careful that we don’t change that.”

Hien Dam, a fourth-year architecture student thinks the changes will only make Ryerson lose its edge over other schools. Mike Wrobel, a third-year architecture student, agrees. He is worried time spent taking specialty courses will be decreased.

“Ryerson is one of the few schools that does a project management in its undergraduate. I just see this losing Ryerson its credentials,” Wrobel said.

–With files from Opal Penney

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