With four distinct graduate programs, as well as two certificate options, graduate students at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture are exposed to some of the most pressing, relevant issues in today’s urban landscape. Coupled with professional development and research opportunities, UVA’s yearly Vortex project is one of the nation’s most unique forums for addressing architectural challenges and presenting revolutionary solutions.
Learn more about the UVA School of Architecture’s Masters programs from Kristine Nelson, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid.
GSM: Briefly describe your role with UVA and some of your main objectives.
Kristine: My role as Director of Admissions and Financial Aid for the School of Architecture at UVA is to oversee the graduate enrollment process through application, acceptance, scholarship offers and matriculation. Additionally, we are expanding our reach to target current undergraduate students, as well as graduates who have been working but who have not considered one of our Master’s programs as an option for their continued learning. Drawing from Thomas Jefferson’s revolutionary link between education and the space, the School of the Architecture is one of the most forward-looking design and planning schools in the world, engaging its students through an interdisciplinary culture, full-use fabrication facilities, and dedicated teaching faculty.
GSM: Briefly describe the 4 graduate programs you have listed on Gradschoolmatch and anything unique that prospective students might like to know.
Kristine: The Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) is a two-to-three-year long program rooted in theoretical conception and practical application. The program attracts a diverse range of students with undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, science, and engineering as well as pre-architecture and architecture. It is our goal to prepare the next generation of leaders to engage the complex design challenges of the future.
The Master of Landscape Architecture (M.L.A.) is two-to-three-year program seeking to foster the next generation of design leaders in practice and academia who will envision a more just and sustainable world. We challenge students to envision landscapes that simultaneously contribute to public life and embody an ethic toward the bio-physical world. Our projects confront the most pressing environmental and social issues of our day – social justice for marginalized communities, livable green infrastructural cities and their waterways, renewal strategies for shrinking post-industrial cities, and urban adaptation to global climate change.
The Master of Architectural History (M.Ar.H.) is the oldest and largest architectural history program in the United States. This two year degree allows students to explore the history of architecture, landscape and urban form by analyzing the sources and forms of architectural expression while considering architecture a critical feature in a broader social and cultural context. With its roots in the study of American architectural history, the department’s areas of study also include Mediterranean, European , and Asian architecture, cities and landscapes
The two-year Master of Urban and Environmental Planning (M.U.E.P) prepares students to make significant contributions as professionals in a variety of public, private, and non-profit settings. The MUEP program emphasizes the linkages between the urban environment and policy, drawing connections between housing and equity, land use and economy, and development and sustainable communities.
GSM: What do you typically look for in potential applicants in terms of background, interests, and work experience?
Kristine: All four of our Master’s programs have students from a wide variety of academic backgrounds. Our design programs (Architecture and Landscape Architecture) offer three year programs that embrace a diverse range of disciplines while the two-year program is for applicants with a bachelor’s degree in architecture or landscape architecture. Our 2015 incoming class from all four of our Master’s programs has students whose majors include: Aerospace Engineering, African American Studies, Art History, Economics, Psychology, Philosophy, Computer Science, and Portuguese.
The UVA School of Architecture does not require any prior work experience. However, all practical experience as listed on a CV/resume is taken into consideration as part of the entire application package.
GSM: How useful is Gradschoolmatch to you and your programs as a recruiting tool, and how does it differ from other recruiting methods you employ?
Kristine: The biggest benefit of Gradschoolmatch is that it allows our office and Program Directors to be in touch with students who might not immediately consider architecture, landscape architecture, architectural history or urban and environmental planning for their graduate studies. Many people assume that an undergraduate degree in one area limits their future academic and career options, but in fact is beneficial to diversifying and enriching the career fields that are fed by our graduate programs. Gradschoolmatch is the only way to communicate with students who have not previously expressed an interest in our programs and allows us to more fully represent our niche education options.
Additionally, Gradschoolmatch is an easy way for potential students to contact our faculty and program directors, which is essential to finding a mutual fit for graduate studies.
GSM: You offer 2 certificate programs through the School of Architecture. What do those look like, and how do they supplement your degree programs?
Kristine: The Historic Preservation Certificate is available to Master’s degree candidates in all four disciplines. This interdisciplinary program offers students the opportunity to expand their professional studies through specialized training in the practice and ethics of historic preservation and the stewardship of cultural landscapes. Students graduating with Historic Preservation Certificates have gone on to do important preservation work with private firms, public agencies, national and international non-profit and non-governmental-organizations, and leading preservation advocacy organizations.
The Urban Design Certificate program is also open to graduate students in all four disciplines. The certificate is structured to synthesize concepts, methods and strengths across disciplines into new approaches to the design and planning of cities and settlements. Students graduating with the Urban Design Certificate will acquire the skills which will better position them to secure employment with private firms or public agencies that specialize in the complexities of contemporary urban design.
Each program consists of 21 credit-hours. There is substantial overlap with degree curriculum, therefore students can expect to complete their degrees on time even if they pursue these valuable certificate options.
GSM: What do research and professional development opportunities look like for students?
Kristine: The School of Architecture has substantial funding available for students to travel for on-site research for their thesis or other proposed projects. Additionally, graduate students have opportunities to assist faculty in their research, often with grant funding.
We have a variety of student groups that are chapters of professional organizations in each field, allowing for vital networking and professional development opportunities. Additionally, students are encouraged to participate in design competitions as well as submit papers for national conferences. Finally, our career services offerings begin with short-term internship opportunities over our January term and continue by assisting with summer and full-time employment professional job fairs.
GSM: What is your relationship with UVA School of Architecture alumni, and how do they impact student recruitment?
Kristine: We have a renewed interest from our alumni to participate in recruiting on all levels. This means they are often available for questions via email or in person at an open house event as well as being highly motivated to meet and talk with applicants who have been offered admission in the spring. Our graduates welcome getting involved in the recruitment process and are excited to share what their UVa education has meant for their chosen profession.
GSM: What is something unique to UVA School of Architecture that you want prospective students to know about?
Kristine: Probably the most unique part of the UVA School of Architecture experience is our emphasis on interdisciplinary involvement, especially during our yearly Vortex. Vortex is a week-long, school-wide event in which professors and students from all departments come together to create solutions to address important issues facing the Charlottesville and UVA communities. Student and faculty groups combine the knowledge they’ve learned in their own disciplines to produce projects that culminate in an exhibition to city and university leaders.