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Most Admired: Hammons School of Architecture Dean lands on national list again

October 28, 2019 — For the second year in a row, Dr. Robert Weddle has been named one of the “Most Admired Educators in Architecture” by respected industry publication Design Intelligence. Weddle has been the Dean of the Hammons School of Architecture at Drury since 2015, and a faculty member since 1999. He sat down to talk about making the list, the Hammons School, and why the new Your Drury Fusion curriculum helps amplify what makes Drury’s architecture program distinctive.  

How does it feel to land on this list again this year?

It’s very gratifying. A bit surprising, I would say, but very gratifying. I think it is surprising because we are a small school and the number of graduates is limited compared to some of the schools on the list. Lists like these and school rankings are highly dependent on the volume of graduates because they look at things like what employers say. If you have a lot more employers hiring graduates, then you have a better shot of getting participation in the surveys.

So, the reason it is so gratifying is clearly the alumni and the students are stepping up and making sure they are participating to break through the noise.

What do you think that says about our alumni?

The survey goes to hiring professionals primarily. In fact, they make a lot of effort to make sure it is not just alumni across-the-board. So those hiring professionals are thought to have more of a sound opinion on the quality of the graduates of the programs.

I think it also shows a really strong community. Something about being a smaller, relatively younger school, some of our alumni are going to cities where they are outnumbered by graduates from the big state schools and so there is a real sense of sticking together, staying in touch, and cohesiveness. Design Intelligence does not use student input for rankings but they look for other comments and information from them.

For those who aren’t familiar with Design Intelligence, how would you describe their lens or angle? 

They present themselves with the title of “Design Intelligence” as a sort of multidisciplinary outlet covering design. They are really looking at innovation in the field and for ways in which fields like architecture, landscape architecture, and interior design are starting to merge with broader disciplines such as industrial design. These rankings have given them prominence. They are the most shared rankings in architecture.

Can you give us a snapshot of what is going on in the Hammons School of Architecture these days?

We are in our third straight year of high freshman enrollment, averaging about 60 incoming freshman students a year. Graduates are continuing to get hired or are having to choose between multiple jobs when they leave Drury. Students are getting internships as early as their third year because there is a high demand for architects.

How was the recent Architecture Day for prospective students?

We had a big crowd and really got to engage with students that were looking at us, along with three or four other schools. Those students were really informed about what they are looking at and looking for. We continue to have a lot of athletes coming, including from out of state, because they are looking for places where they can continue both their athletic careers and architecture education.  

How is the Hammons School of Architecture fitting in with Your Drury Fusion? 

I think it is fitting really well. It isn’t much of an adjustment because 85 percent of our majors have also had other minors or double majored within their educational experience so it is natural for them to think about bringing different threads and interests into their studies. We are also all about project-based learning in our studio courses, so the idea of “fusion” in some ways formalizes the things we have done for a long time and brings them to the scale of the university. It is an easy and fluid transition. Students seems to get it and are excited by it.

Architecture is a field that is broad. In some ways every job is a new learning experience where you have to inform yourself about new organizations and building types—you have to conduct constant research. Having those kinds of tools makes graduates more agile. There are a lot of really natural fits with the new certificates in combination with the architecture program, along with some that are an escape from architecture.

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