Ball State University is home to Indiana’s only state-assisted architecture college. In fact, the College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) is one of the most comprehensive and largest of its kind in the country. Its programs include almost everything in the built environment — from designing interior spaces to planning entire communities.
“CAP students are professionally prepared, creatively curious, globally aware, and locally engaged because they learn to think independently and become leaders who solve problems throughout their lifetimes,” said CAP Dean Dave Ferguson.
CAP’s roughly 6,000 graduates serve their communities as architects, landscape architects, urban planners and designers, interior designers, historic preservationists, and construction managers. Its accomplished alumni include Craig Hartman, who designed the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, California; Keith O’Connor, who was the chief planner of south Manhattan after 9/11; Catherine Baker, a Landon Bone Baker Architects principal who developed a direct neighborhood outreach program; Troy Thompson, a managing partner at SmithGroup reimagining the Chicago Stockyards; Janette S. Blackburn, a Shepley-Bulfinch principal who designs projects at universities; Jennifer L. Milliken, senior director of Urban Land Institute, Indiana; Adriann Rhoades, preconstruction manager at F.A. Wilhelm Construction Co.; and Dan Render, director of sustainability for World Expo 2020 in Dubai.
As Ball State celebrates its Centennial, Ferguson sat down with Ball State magazine to reflect on the college’s proud past and bright future.
Which of CAP’s accomplishments are you most proud of?
CAP leads the way in community engagement. It’s our hallmark. Since our inception in 1965, we have 200-plus projects in Muncie alone, including the Head Start outdoor playscape, the pavilion and other improvements at the Maring-Hunt Library Community Garden, and scenic overlooks along the White River. And we have been active throughout the state, including a fast-increasing number of urban design projects in the Indianapolis area.
The College of Architecture and Planning is also on the forefront of sustainability. For three years in a row, Ball State students have been finalists in the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge (formerly Race to Zero). At the national competition, students design homes that produce as much green energy as they use.
An education at CAP goes well beyond campus. We encourage our students and faculty to participate in Field Trip Week in Fall semester. They explore interesting sites, cities, and buildings across the U.S. and internationally. One of our best-known field study opportunities among alumni is World Tour, which takes students and faculty on a 15-week tour to many countries. Students have called it “the most transformative experience of my life.” The final project of the tour is for them to translate their newly found design insights as applied to their own communities. They become better professionals and better citizens.
What three initiatives are you most looking forward to?
Our current generation of students will do amazing things within 10 years. They will leave here understanding virtual and augmented reality — for example, clients putting on goggles and walking through a “real” space that exists only as a computer model — allowing the client to contribute to the final design. Digital fabrication and robotic construction processes will help us construct tomorrow’s projects in efficient and exciting ways.
As the climate changes with rising coastlines and more extreme weather, Ball State graduates are learning to plan communities and landscapes, as well as adapt the design and construction of buildings, in ways that are resilient and responsive to change.
In higher education, we will need to become more flexible in how we deliver our programs. Students might not expect to earn a bachelor’s degree by spending all four or five years on campus. In the “just-in-time,” customized world we are moving toward, the traditional 15-week, 3-credit-hour course on campus might not work for tomorrow’s students. Higher education may soon incorporate a variety of choices that could include spending one or two years on campus working in immersive settings, blended with a string of co-op experiences in the field, and then back to campus for a capstone project. We will need to look at how we schedule courses and what format — on campus, online, or blended — works best for students. And we need to dramatically increase our options for lifelong learning among our alumni.
What are three facets of CAP people should know?
Our faculty are outstanding scholars as well as excellent teachers. Their research includes rethinking how Midwestern cities, buildings, and sites should adapt to a postindustrial setting, adaptive reuse for historic structures, ecological approaches to land-use planning, the increasing applications of drones and augmented reality in design, and the effects of lighting and acoustics on children on the autism spectrum, just to cite a few examples.
Over the years, we have built strong ties to prestigious firms and accomplished professionals worldwide. We’re proud of our ties to the professions. In 2017-18, we awarded the Emens Distinguished Professorship to one of the nation’s largest architecture, landscape architecture, engineering and planning firms, SmithGroup, which is currently led by an alumnus. Our students worked with the firm on reimagining a new identity for the Chicago Stockyards, and SmithGroup staff provided guest lectures, project critiques, and mentoring to our students. This partnership has established a new conduit for learning for our students, giving us current, relevant input as we evolve our educational model.
Ball State graduates have changed the face of Indiana. CAP alumni are in nearly every major firm in Indiana, often in executive positions. In fact, our alumni make an impact in communities throughout the United States and around the world. That community impact starts in school with projects like the ones I mentioned earlier. One of the best parts of my job is meeting with our accomplished alumni. They are one of our greatest assets.
How does CAP encourage students to live the Beneficence Pledge?
Our guide is Ball State’s enduring values — excellence, integrity, innovation, courage, social responsibility, inclusiveness, and gratitude. Those values are demonstrated daily in the family-like atmosphere of the College of Architecture and Planning. We treat each other respectfully. We are grateful for each other, and we appreciate our rich environment, which includes state-of-art technology such as high-end software, digital fabrication labs and robotic modeling capability, virtual reality cave and visualization support, and labs for materials testing, historic preservation, and related matters.
How does CAP empower students?
One beautiful quality about a design education at Ball State is how we empower our students with passion and purpose. In the College of Architecture and Planning, students use basic design principles, act on solid information, and interpret it creatively. Then, they craft new, innovative solutions. They are great communicators and step into their professional lives with confidence and a desire to make the world a better place.
What would you like to highlight for the Centennial?
As Ball State celebrates its Centennial, I applaud the College of Architecture and Planning’s role in the University’s proud past, and I am optimistic about its bright future. As Ball State is poised to “fly” into its second century, our students will learn more than how to use the latest technology to design, build, construct, and plan. They will learn how to apply design thinking to create professions that don’t yet exist to better serve their neighbors near and far.