Twenty-five Detroit Public Schools high school students graduated from a preparatory architecture program hosted by the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning Monday night.

The semester-long joint workshop program, called the Michigan Architecture Prep Program, was created to expose DPS students to the field of architecture and job opportunities in related fields. The University has launched multiple programs in past years to better connect with cities across the state. 

The program, which launched in December 2014, allows Taubman faculty and DPS staff to interact and work together to develop workshops for students interested in the field.

Milton Curry, associate dean of academic affairs and strategic initiatives in the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, said Detroit was chosen as the site for the program because of the city’s history with the University.

“The University of Michigan has a historic role in that it was founded in Detroit,” Curry said. “It has a responsibility as a public university — one of the premier public universities — to be a leader.”

Irene Nordé, executive director for the Office of Mathematics Education in Detroit Public Schools, said she thought the program was highly beneficial for students. She noted that for the program to work, several logistical measures were taken by DPS.

“We had to look for ways to one: get them credit for doing the work,” Nordé said. “And two: that it had to be aligned with college and career readiness standards.”

After adding the program as a course to the DPS catalogue, participating high schools also arranged busing and scheduling so students could participate.

According to Nordé, some students attended the prep program in the morning while others attended during the afternoon. Busing was arranged by DPS to transport the students to and from the midtown architecture research studio back to their high schools, where students would then attend their regular classes.

“This was a phenomenal opportunity for students,” Nordé said.

In a speech during the graduation ceremony, Maurice Cox, the city of Detroit’s planning and development director, encouraged students to explore new opportunities and step out of their comfort zones.

“You have been taught a level of abstraction, a level of creative thinking that most of your peers back at school have not been exposed to,” he said. “The fact that you succeeded should give you enormous confidence.”

Diamond Long, Cass Technical High School junior who participated in the program, said she was grateful for the chance to be exposed to college-level architecture standards and criticism.

“At first I struggled because at first we were doing a lot of free-hand stuff,” Long said. “But as I got to the second project I was a lot more comfortable with it.”

Long said her instructor, Michigan-Mellon Design Fellow Paulina Reyes, was open with students, easy to engage with and made the learning process easier for students.

“She’s always open-minded and gives me critiques on my work,” she said. “Which to me means she wants the best from me.”

In a speech during the ceremony, Long said she enjoyed the experience and was grateful to have had the chance to participate. She added that her perception of architecture has changed significantly since finishing the program.

Following the program, the University will also be offering a follow-up workshop during which applicants will be guided through Taubman’s application process in an effort to increase the number of minority students studying architecture either at the University or at other schools.

That additional step, Curry said, was also an important part of increasing representation in the field.

“The way that you become an architect is to go to architecture school,” Curry said. “What we’re doing is facilitating a demystification of the process of applying to college, getting admitted to college and then paying for college.”


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