An important moment for higher education in Bartholomew County occurred a little more than three weeks ago. That’s when Indiana University’s new J. Irwin Miller Architecture program commenced in Columbus.
The three-year program, which started Aug. 20, offers a master’s degree and utilizes the city’s resources, notably its more than 65 examples of Modern architecture as a living lab for the 22-student cohort.
The first day of class was a perfect example of that, with the students using 76-year-old First Christian Church downtown, designed by renowned Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, as their classroom, learning from their professor, T. Kelly Wilson, the director of the new graduate program.
The students will continue to use the local architectural gems throughout their studies, but the program also will take them abroad to study, in places such as Rome to learn about ancient architecture.
Both are significant components that made the new program appealing to prospective students, as did the opportunity to be on the ground floor of a new program being established.
Three years ago, discussions began between the Columbus-based Community Education Coalition and IU about creating a master’s program for architecture in Columbus.
On March 9, 2017, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education approved IU’s proposed program.
Then on April 30 of this year, IU secured a home for the program, purchasing and renovating — with the help of city and private funding — the former Republic building downtown on Second Street, itself a significant building. The Myron Goldsmith-designed building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012.
The Community Education Coalition, IU, city leaders and Wilson worked hard to make the program reality, and their efforts paid off well.
Higher learning has expanded in the community, which is crucial; the city’s architectural assets are being used in a greater way, which helps its architectural reputation; and students are living in Columbus as they learn, which adds a new perspective to the community.
The new master’s program in architecture in Columbus — and all its brings — is quite an achievement, and something in which the community can take satisfaction.