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50th Anniversary: School of Architecture looks to the future as it celebrates its past Vision for the next 50 years

Since its inception more than 50 years ago, the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture (SOA) has been committed to a student-centered approach to education, ensuring a rich and diverse experience for all students. We remain focused on an educational experience that benefits from three key hands-on experiences—Cooperative Education, Community Engagement Expertise, Global Perspective­—that, in combination, prepare our students to lead and serve their profession and their communities.

In the coming years, the School will continue to strengthen and enrich these three core experiences, as well as expanding a fourth hands-on emphasis in the areas of construction technology and digital media technologies.

Cooperative Education

The SOA was one of the first and is still one of few architecture programs in the country with a mandatory cooperative educational experience, providing valuable lessons in a real-world setting integrated into undergraduate studies.

Future vision: Expand the co-op program through interaction with SOA faculty, career events, studio sponsorships, and continuing education, solidifying our role as a leader in the integration of the academy and practice.

Community Engagement Expertise

The SOA is committed to public interest design and the participatory approach to the advancement of the built environment, exemplified by our Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC).

Future vision: Expand the role of the DCDC in the community, increase student participation with the DCDC and other service-oriented initiatives, strengthening synergies with our Master of Community Development program, and add a new Master of Urban Design degree, solidifying our stature as a leader in public interest design.

Global Perspective

A global perspective enables students to engage a broad range of people and cultures. The SOA offers these opportunities through an exchange program in Warsaw, Poland; a study abroad program with our own facility in Volterra, Italy; and through collaboration with the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada.

Future vision: Strengthen these three existing programs, eventually making study abroad a mandatory requirement for all upper level students with scholarship support provided through the Volterra Detroit Foundation, and explore new relationships with potential partnering schools in France, England, and Asia, solidifying our exemplary global perspective.

Technological Expertise

SOA students receive well-rounded exposure to the necessary technological tools to work effectively, evidenced in our electronic design studio, building information modeling software, and required sustainable design class.

Future vision: Focus on the following three areas of hands-on technological experience for the future:

  • Digital Media–increase the focus on Digital Media technological tools that cross over with architectural production by developing more advanced labs, and by collaborating more directly between architecture and DMS faculty.
  • Design | Build Studios–provide students more opportunities to work in a design/build setting to gain real hands-on experience through the construction of their own ideas, and collaborate with the College of Engineering & Science in utilizing their advanced manufacturing labs.
  • Sustainability–expand coursework in the area of sustainable and environmental design so students have the ability to graduate as LEED Certified professionals; and explore the potential for an interdisciplinary environmental studies degree, combining expertise from the realms of architecture, urban design, civil and environmental engineering, biology, and other environmental sciences.

As our next 50 years unfold, we envision every UDM SOA student will graduate with:

  • up to eight months of full-time hands-on professional experience,
  • exposure to meaningful urban community engagement and an understanding of the importance of the client’s role in the co-authorship of our work,
  • rich cultural competency with a full semester of study abroad experience,
  • a full range of technical expertise, including structural and environmental systems, the ability to communicate ideas in a dynamic digital environment, a hands-on understanding of construction, and a solid foundation in the latest techniques for sustainable design.

We are already very close to realizing this vision today, and with the support of our alumni and friends and the innovative leadership of our faculty, we expect to advance these goals during the next 50 years as a leading school of architecture.

Will Wittig, Dean, School of Architecture

For more information about UDM, or to apply online, go to

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