Don’t go back to normal. Of all the coronavirus slogans and memes now circulating, this is the one most motivating me as we chart a new path for teaching and learning at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. It captures the call presented by our world today to transform the built environment, the professions that shape it, and the educational programs that equip students to shape the future through architecture, planning, and urban design.
The coronavirus pandemic is one of these calls, a catastrophe revealing some of the ways that our cities, regions, neighborhoods, and buildings must better serve public health and community vitality. The movement for Black lives is another, spotlighting the many ways that policy, planning, and design inhibit or promote racial justice. Both of these intersect with many other issues that are important to our community, from housing affordability and community empowerment to economic transformation and climate change.
In responding to today’s crises, the faculty and staff, students, and alumni of Taubman College aim to accelerate positive change. To me, don’t go back to normal sums up the challenge to transform our buildings and cities for the better. It captures the opportunity for us to double down on those aspects of the college that make us proudest—such as our passion for teaching and learning, our breadth of expertise, and our experimental culture—while casting off those that hold us back, such as the legacies of exclusion and privilege that still shape education and practice in architecture and planning today.
At Taubman College, faculty, students, and staff have stepped up under extraordinary pressure, making the transition from face-to-face instruction in a closely knit community to teaching and learning at a distance. They have adeptly migrated annual events such as our career fair, new student preview days, and exhibitions into virtual platforms. The impressive student work featured on our website is testimony to the success with which our community pulled together to keep teaching, and keep learning, through the pandemic.
Now we look ahead to an upcoming year unlike any other in the long and accomplished history of architecture and planning at the University of Michigan. Faculty, students, and staff are working overtime this summer to prepare new ways of teaching and learning. We look forward to being back on campus this fall, though in-person instruction will be limited by public health measures in size, density, duration, and frequency. We will be stacking protective measures, overlaying multiple layers of safeguards to reduce risk for everyone. We plan to complement face-to-face work with online instruction, running them in parallel and flexing between them as necessary. For students who can’t make it to Ann Arbor due to disruptions in travel and visa processing, we will support you in starting your education online until you are able to come to campus.
In the spirit of not going back to normal, we are prioritizing equity innovation: academic innovation that supports diversity, equity, and inclusion by making education more accessible to a broader range of learners. And we are intensifying our focus on racial equity, drawing from our existing diversity, equity, and inclusion plan while also augmenting it with new strategies. This is the work of building the discipline we deserve, rather than perpetuating the one we’ve inherited from forebears with circumstances, demographics, and values that were shaped by different times.
Join us! If you are considering a career in architecture, urban design, or planning, reach out to learn more about our degrees. If you are a colleague in practice or academia, reach out to see how we can collaborate. If you are an alum or friend of the college, support us in our mission of excellence in education and discovery. In any of these roles, join us in generating design and planning methods for building a better world.
Dean, University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning