Skip to main content

A Message from our Director, Jim Stevens, AIA, Ph.D.

ignore

Summer 2021

To the Clemson Community: 

It has been a difficult but rewarding year. A global pandemic, political and social unrest, quarantine and self-isolation, and a transition to online studio challenged what it means to teach and learn in a school of architecture. Fortunately, we responded as any good designers would; we accepted the reality of our conditions and designed to our limits. As a result, we maintained quality in the studio and classrooms despite the forced shift to online teaching. We came up with new and creative ways to teach, design, communicate and socialize. We became quickly familiar with technologies, which we now understand will not go away post-pandemic. We were, without knowing it, practicing the tools of future work, and in hindsight, I am grateful that we did. However, even the optimists among us, after touting the advantages of the virtual world, became restless to return to Lee Hall. Therefore, many of us let out a collective sigh of relief when President Clements announced this spring that we were planning to return in person beginning in the Fall of 2021. Despite our adaptability, we all knew we were missing something this year. We missed the human connection, personal discourse, and the studio culture that feeds our creative ventures. We hope that conditions continue to improve, and we will all be back together in the fall to recapture what we lost and remember what we learned when we were forced apart. 

On June 9, 2020, one year ago today, I was one week into my tenure as the Director of the School of Architecture when I sent a letter to all students and faculty reinforcing the SoA's position as an inclusive and safe environment for all students. I also made a list of actions that we would initiate as a school to ensure we support students of color and students from underserved communities. I am happy to report that many of these items have been completed, and we exceeded our expectations by expanding our impact. A list of the significant accomplishments are as follows: 

• The SoA recruited a professional mentor for first-year students. This position focused on the retention of students who are first in their families to attend college. 

• A fund was established to assist first-year students with the purchase of supplies. This initiative was implemented to improve the retention of disadvantaged students. 

• A new SoA fund was established to support underserved students and received over $20,000 in external gifts directly distributed to students financially impacted by COVID. 

• Two new African American Lecturers joined the faculty in the fall of 2020. 

• The SoA created and awarded two new student awards to the best undergraduate and graduate students who work for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI). 

• The SoA and the College of Architecture Arts and Humanities have committed to supporting a student-led regional conference on justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI). 

• The Clemson National Organization of Minority Architects, Students (cNOMAS) worked with the faculty to ensure cNOMAS representation when students are asked to advise the faculty and Director. 

• The SoA completed a successful lecture series titled Design Race and Social (In)Justice, hosting many of the top voices in social justice and the built environment. 

• The Clemson Design Center, Charleston (CDC.C) hosted a three-part symposium on Memorials, Monuments, Memory, and Meaning. Created by Professor Ray Huff, this series thoughtfully discussed the confederate monuments in Charleston and best practices when designing public spaces. The symposium was paired with a design studio that allowed students to explore these topics through design proposals in Charleston. 

• The SoA is working on a publication to profile the 22 SoA alumni of color, beginning with Harvey Gantt and ending with the class of 2000. Publication details are forthcoming. 

• The cNOMAS received a grant from the Clemson Architecture Foundation (CAF) to support members with financial needs. 

The Pelham Foundation created a new Endowment for Emerging Scholars program. This gift will provide funding for a new architecture curriculum plus outreach to help provide opportunities for students from South Carolina's I-95 corridor to study architecture. 

The list of accomplishments is significant when viewed together, particularly given the challenging year in which they occurred. I want to thank the students of cNOMAS and the SoA faculty and staff for their tireless work and leadership toward social justice in the built environment. Without your contributions, we would not have been able to accomplish all that we have. Yet, we are nowhere close to where we need to be; therefore, I am renewing the SoA's commitment to social justice and to creating an inclusive learning environment with plans to extend these initiatives further in 2021. 

The academic year ended with some much-needed good news. First, the SoA was given the authorization to return with students to the Villa in Genoa and our Fluid Campus in Barcelona. After a one-year absence from traveling, we are excited to see our students planning their semesters abroad. The students returning this fall to the Villa in Genoa will find a completely renovated interior. The pandemic prevented students from traveling for the first time in 48 years, allowing for long-awaited renovations to ceilings and floors that could only be completed when empty. We are thankful to the Clemson Architecture Foundation (CAF) for its efforts to fund and manage this project during a challenging year. 

On the heels of the authorization to travel, a new philanthropic gift to the SoA was announced. If you are a student or alumnus of the SoA, Bill and Laura Pelham positively impacted your life. The generosity of the Pelham family began many years ago, and their gifts make possible so many of our offerings. Last week, President Clements announced the latest and most generous gift to the SoA from the Pelham Family Foundation. The 3-million-dollar Cornerstone Gift will fund three new endowments and annual funds to the CAF, Architecture + Health, and the SoA Excellence Fund. We are grateful for the Pelham family gift and are committed to the tradition of excellence that they help make possible. 

I have been asked many times how things went during my first year as Director. Concerned colleagues would comment on how hard it must have been. I always respond honestly and tell them that it went very well because of the students, faculty, and staff at the SoA. There is an advantage of being new in an institution during a crisis. The advantage is that the real priorities of the institution become apparent; they show their true colors. What I have learned during this year is that everyone at all levels of the institution was focused on the safety and health of everyone in the Clemson Community and equally focused on ensuring our students have the best experience possible. What mattered at Clemson was the people, and that is what makes the SoA special and why I am happy to be a part of this community. 

I hope to see you all in Lee Hall soon and wish you a safe and productive summer. 

Sincerely, 

untitled-4.png
Jim Stevens, AIA, P.hD.
Director + Professor