Recap: TACAA Visits the Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science

TACAA Introduction

(April 14th, 2016) the Tuskegee Architecture and Construction Alumni Association (TACAA) kicked off its visit to Tuskegee University with a meeting to address the dean, department heads, faculty and staff of the Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture and Construction Science (TSACS). An overview of TACAA initiatives, new officers, membership restructuring, student portfolio competition, and the updates to the Association’s website were shared for general awareness. All in attendance were made aware that the TSACS website has also been linked to the TACAA website for prospective students. Information on the website can be used for NAAB accreditation purposes, announcements, news and student career services.

Following the introductory period, TSACS faculty congratulated the Association on its progress and were deeply moved that students are getting excited and encouraged because of the recent changes and engagement of the Alumni.

Faculty Meeting and TACAA Update

Faculty discussed ways in which the students can remain enthusiastic about TSACS, efforts for maintaining accreditation from the National Architecture Accrediting Board, acquiring accreditation from the American Council of Construction Education and opportunities to make TSACS more professionally competitive. These efforts include the following:

  • Providing professional certification programs that students can engage in during undergraduate studies;

  • Finding ways in which construction students can complete co-op programs despite the delay in expected graduation due to the semester away from the school;

  • Bridging the gap between architecture and construction science students through the addition of interdisciplinary courses that require an integrated design process;

  • Developing options such as the Master of Architecture, Dual Degrees for Architecture and Construction Science Management; and

  • Exploring an interdisciplinary curriculum track program to renovate the Willcox E Building to better serve the Construction Science Program.

Officers participating in this meeting shared recollections of construction science and architecture students’ interactions with one another during their time at Tuskegee and offered the following suggestions for future interaction between the two departments:

  • TSACS lecture series calling for students to present their current projects for school-wide awareness and feedback;

  • A design-build project calling for ARCH-CSM involvement. Department Head Rogers Hunt suggested building a float for participation in the Tuskegee University Homecoming parade and stated that it may be possible to revitalize these efforts for student - alumni engagement in the future;

  • Lunch and Learns which will provide all faculty and students information on various products and structural systems and also, aid in the growing materials library currently present in Willcox C; and

  • Restructuring of the architecture curriculum to bring all students together for learning experiences. This due to the fact that currently architecture and csm structural courses have been split based on accreditation requirements (previously, shared courses were the primary platform for architecture and construction science engagement).

Portfolio Competition Review

Among the initiatives that yielded extensive discussion were the Student Portfolio Competition. Faculty are finding that students are not adequately preparing or positioning themselves for summer internships and full-time positions. TACAA Officers could attest to this due to the low number of portfolio submissions, incomplete submissions, and the overall level of presentation of professional work.

The Officers informed the faculty that there were some students who displayed a continuous progress and ability to learn throughout the program. The primary being 5th year student Travis Armbrister who placed 1st in this year’s competition. His portfolio can be viewed on the TACAA website blog page.

Officers also provided commentary from the Student Portfolio Competition jury which is summarized below:

  • Many students did not properly showcase their “experience” areas, using this area to share leadership involvement and experiences unrelated to the architecture profession

  • Some portfolios lacked a fluid graphic design, presentational appearance and/or solid writing style to demand the attention from a potential employer.

While jury members felt that events such as AIAS Career Focus, firm visits, and workshops were essential to the development of the students, they concluded that there is nothing like receiving one-on-one, extensive feedback from alumni who are ultimately rooting for the students’ success. Therefore, the jury considered it highly important that alumni review students’ resume, portfolios, and studio work for feedback. In additional to the jury’s suggestions, the following suggestions were made in the meeting:

  • The Alumni Association portfolio competition could become integrated within the 4th year architecture curriculum so that students will be ready to apply for graduate schools and jobs in their 5th year. A strong architectural presentation course should address verbal, written and graphic communication in first or second year so students can apply presentation standards early in their design work.

  • Resume and portfolio creation could also be reinforced during the Professional Practice course. TSACS was excited to announce that Shavon Charlot, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, will be teaching the Professional Practice course in additional to the Construction Document course. She is currently an architect and project manager at Sherlock, Smith & Adams (Montgomery, AL).

  • Visiting other schools, firms, constructions sites and participating in local, national and international conferences to gauge their potential competition for employment.

Recommendations for TACAA

Additional ideas and suggestions for TACAA, as the organization establishes programs and initiatives are as follows:

  • Establishing a TACAA National Mentorship Program, including pairing students with alumni during conference and academic related travel;

  • Hosting additional TACAA Talk Seminars aside from the “Things I Wish I Knew Before Graduating…” held April 14th, from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., including opportunities for alumni around the world to tell their story via digital communication;

  • Gathering additional statistical information on construction science alumni, licensed alumni, those currently testing and locations via the “Our Alumni” tab on the TACAA website;

  • Participating in study abroad experiences; and

  • Hosting an Alumni-Student mixer during Homecoming along with a TACAA General Body Meeting

Architecture and Construction Accreditation Review

The Robert R. Taylor School of Architecture was set for an accreditation visit with the National Architecture Accreditation Board Spring 2017; however, this visit has been delayed until the Fall 2017. This will give the department additional time to increase enrollment, hire a Department Head of Architecture as well as incorporate much needed improvements to secure accreditation.

Based on the last visit in 2011, the following were presented as areas for improvement:

  • The visiting team was concerned as to whether or not the momentum of the School of Architecture would be upheld due to enrollment, interim leadership and faculty credentials;

  • Consistency within student work;

  • Advancement of building systems used within project designs;

  • Spec Writing; and

  • Student isolation due to location of school in proximity to larger cities with available resources

The department is making the necessary steps to address these issues and are currently in the process of hiring a Department Head of Architecture.

The Robert R. Taylor School of Construction Science is on track for the ACCE accreditation visit Spring 2017. Students have many opportunities within the curriculum for co-op, professional credentials during undergraduate studies, conference attendance, and competitions. Construction Science also offers a minor in Project Management which is open to construction and architecture students. The only areas for improvement were the Willcox E facilities used for CSM classes.

Student Leadership Meeting

Current student organizations existing within TSACS are the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), BRICKS (Construction Science Umbrella Organization), National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS), US Green Building Council (USGBC), Sigma Lambda Chi (Construction Science Honor Society), Tau Sigma Delta (Architecture Honor Society), National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), Associated General Contractors (AGC) and Women in Construction.

Of the student organizations in attendance, NOMAS and Women in Construction, ABC, and AGC were considered the most active. NOMAS placed 3rd in this year’s national design competition and successfully completed their annual haunted house fundraiser, which serves as support for conference attendance. Women in Construction, which goes hand-in-hand with BRICK, continues to raise money for a variety of construction conferences and competitions. AGC participated in the judging of the Build South G.C. completion and attended the 2016 AGC Build South Awards and Hall of Fame Induction Dinner. ABC recently participated in a 3 par golf event hosted by Alabama ABC benefiting the 2017 ABC CM competition teams (Tuskegee University, Auburn University and University of Alabama).

While these accomplishments were congratulated, TACAA’s leadership encouraged all student organizations to conduct planning meetings before the end of the academic year in order to maintain continuity within each of their organizations. Student leaders were also encouraged to share calendars with TSACS and TACAA as well as consider their marketing approaches as a means of support. Many examples were offered to the students, and all were strongly encouraged to produce a newsletter to share with TSACS and TACAA for student updates and accomplishments.

TACAA Talk: Round Table Discussion: “Things I Wish I Knew Before Graduating”

On the evening of Thursday, April 14th TACAA hosted a roundtable discussion and pizza party with about 30 students representing both majors and all years. The discussion included six alumni who varied in years of experience and career paths.

The Alumni present discussed the importance of students investing in their careers at an early stage by taking advantage of opportunities that TSACS, student organizations, internships and shadowing opportunities have to offer. Students responded by sharing personal stories and encouraging their fellow colleagues to take every opportunity offered by TSACS and student organizations to better themselves as emerging professionals.

Alumni stressed the importance of professionalism in order to position themselves for success upon graduation. While polling students in attendance, 25% of students had plans for the summer while 75% had not yet determined their plans. Students were challenged to use their summer breaks as the necessary learning experience to position themselves for full-time employment after graduation.

Students were able to ask questions, receive personal feedback and were very encouraged at the end of the session.

5th Year Final Presentation

Twelve students presented their 5th year architecture presentations Friday, April 16th from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. The jury consisted of ten members, eight of which were alumni traveling from Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and the District of Columbia. Presenters are listed below:

5th Year Students: Monteal Wiggins, Clifford Watkins, Shakira Love, Torreece Maxey, Taruean Merriweather, Jabriel Jefferson, Rajette Smith, Autumn Roberts. Brandon Fennell, Tevin Thompson, Quinton Brown, and Travis Armbrister.

Construction Capstone Presentations took place on Thursday, April 21st (after TACAA visit). Ten senior CSM students presented and were judged by a panel of seven construction industry professionals including alums James “JQ” Hicks (CSM c/o 77), Norm Davis (CSM c/o 77) and Andrew Powell (CSM c/o 92). The panel selected team C.W. Thomas Construction Inc. (Shelby Thomas, Warren Delaine, Craig Milner) as the most outstanding capstone team.

In Summary...

The in-person encounters during the TACAA visit were invaluable and encouraging. The meetings with the faculty were an essential link between TSACS and alumni for information sharing, TACAA and TSACS advice, accreditation updates, and student engagement. We encourage alumni to remain engaged with TSACS, support students and participate in events soliciting alumni attendance.

The TSACS visit would not have been possible without the support of the financially active members, donors and volunteers of the Alumni Association. Your efforts and well as alumni who volunteer throughout the academic year are greatly appreciated!

TACAA welcomes and encourages all alumni to get involved. If you have not yet become a 2016 financially active member, please consider the small contribution to continue the progress of the Alumni Association. Join Now!

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