The leadership at the Rice School of Architecture doesn’t believe in teaching software in school. As dean Sarah Whiting puts it, “We accept that most employers want Revit.” But, while the school acknowledges the market’s demands, she says, “The program at Rice isn’t to get someone a job at some office—it’s that they’ll go and be a leader in the field, and help make practice better.” Instead, the school emphasizes the value of workplace experience, which is intended to help its students land jobs soon after graduation.
The Rice School of Architecture provides ample opportunities for students to gain such work experience during their programs. Students in the five-year undergraduate program fulfill a yearlong preceptorship between their fourth and fifth years, which places them at an architectural office to try their hands at practice before returning to complete their coursework. After graduation from the B.Arch program, the school makes informal attempts at job placement on behalf of these students through a network of alumni; the year of work prior to graduation makes them attractive candidates. Small class sizes ensure that almost every graduate gets help with his or her job search, thanks to teachers’ intimate knowledge of each student’s strengths.
Graduate students finish their three-and-a-half-year program in January, giving them a head start on the quest for employment over students whose schedules align with a more traditional school year, which generally ends sometime between April and June. Although they don’t go through the same yearlong work program as their undergraduate counterparts, there are plenty of opportunities for graduate students to build real-world experience during the course of the program. For years, the Rice Building Workshop paired students with a non–profit organization called Project Row Houses, where students would not only engage in community design, but would also use these houses as “a research area to investigate the design of an efficient wet core,” according to Whiting. In its current iteration, the Building Workshop has the enviable commission of designing and building a café for the Menil Collection. Now in its construction detail phase, this project was “handed over from a seminar to a studio, where another group has taken it over,” Whiting says, illustrating how the sequential nature of the studios that work on a project enable each project to evolve as new sets of students take it over.
At the end of the school year at Rice, a pens-down deadline ensures that students, graduate and undergraduate alike, will be able to participate actively in their year-end reviews and related events. These events include exhibitions of the students’ final projects, the release of a semiannual journal (PLAT), and a host of symposia and lectures. Through this dialogue, the school hopes to pursue innovation in pratice; Dean Whiting says, “It’s our obligation to advance the discipline and practice of architecture so that it continues to move forward. If innovation is removed from practice, that can lead to a crisis in the profession, which doesn’t serve us well either in school or in practice.”
Rice School of Architecture by the numbers:
|Tuition: $36,610||Tuition: $27,480|
|68% of undergrads receive institutional grants||87% of grads receive aid from Rice|
|Degree Conferred: B.Arch (5 years)||36% of grads receive full scholarship|