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UPenn vs UMich - Radical Social Justice

_N8_

Hey all, as the title states, I am deciding between UPenn and UMich for my M.Arch degree. My interests lie in community engagement, social justice, sustainable materials, yet I am also interested in the possibilities of the profession, re-thinking licensure, firm structure, and client/architect relationship. If you would like to debate these issues themselves, please take it to another thread. 

On the Penn side, I am intrigued by PennPraxis, the greater focus on preservation, and direct relationship to Philadelphia. I would also have a much greater opportunity for elective classes, as I am in the 3 year program. However, it is unclear to me how radical the program could get and I am worried my interests are not at the forefront of the program. The open house is still a few weeks out so I am waiting for that.

On the Mich side, they are clearly in line with my interests and have a heavy engagement with Detroit. However, their Public Design Corps is fairly new and opportunities for involvement are limited. Also, the nature of the 2 year program is that I have less opportunities for electives. 

I am looking forward to any thoughts you all have on this topic! I am trying to focus on pedagogy first, and financials after, but they will soon be hard to separate. Obviously Penn is quite a bit more expensive than Mich. 

 
Mar 21, 21 11:58 am
levifingerer

I have the same debate.  I'd love to see your portfolio

Mar 21, 21 1:52 pm  · 
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_N8_

My portfolio isn't anything special, but sure you can take a look: https://issuu.com/nathanael.nelson/docs/nelson_portfolio_2021

Mar 21, 21 7:11 pm  · 
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_N8_

Since you are having the same debate, which way are you leaning, and how are you going about getting information?

Mar 21, 21 7:12 pm  · 
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levifingerer

I'm leaning towards Michigan since its two years. Your portfolio is pretty nice. What type of undergrad do you have? Michigan also offered me a decent scholarship whereas UPENN hasn't offered me any.

Mar 21, 21 8:00 pm  · 
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_N8_

B.S. Arch, 4 years at UVA. Yeah I haven't gotten much funding from Penn but I will try to negotiate in a few weeks. It's just, I really don't want to go to the state of Michigan lol

Mar 21, 21 8:16 pm  · 
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levifingerer

Ann Arbor isn't bad other than the weather. Did Michigan offer you a nice scholarship? I hate that Penn is 3 years. I feel that like extra year plays a big role even though penn is better ranked

Mar 21, 21 8:58 pm  · 
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_N8_

Yeah, very minimal like 10k. Honestly I don't mind the 3 years, more opportunities for electives, but it does come with extra cost. And aren't they ranked fairly similarly? Penn does break the top 10 though

Mar 21, 21 9:20 pm  · 
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levifingerer

Penn breaks top 10. Where does Michigan sit? Also why do you want extra electives? Haven't you taken enough during your undergrad which plays no role for anything useful lol

Mar 23, 21 11:49 am  · 
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_N8_

Mich tends to hover between 10-14, it seems pretty well respected from my research. And regarding electives, I mean I want to curate my education as much as possible to explore both what interests me and what is outside my comfort zone. Though at the open house Mich was v encouraging of waiving classes and expanding outside Taubman, so I'm probably leaning Mich unless Penn is incredibly convincing at the open house.

Mar 23, 21 12:24 pm  · 
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levifingerer

Mich is known for the interesting classes they offer. I wish there was more research Available in regards to its ranking and respect in Architecture

Mar 23, 21 2:46 pm  · 
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shellarchitect

I’d suggest looking into the university of Detroit mercy.  It has far greater engagement in the city than umich.  Their social justice mission is deeply engrained in the school, not a newly developed social conscience 

Mar 21, 21 10:59 pm  · 
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_N8_

Thanks for bringing my attention to this university; unfortunately I didn't apply there this cycle and I'm hoping to be in grad school in the fall. But perhaps if I end up at Mich, I can look into bolstering programs UD Mercy has already set up.

Mar 22, 21 8:48 am  · 
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abrahamalzoubi

Hey, I am from Michigan and have a big interest in Detroit. What do you know about Detroit Mercy because I have really only learned about UMich's program?

Nov 8, 21 6:56 pm  · 
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abrahamalzoubi

Hey, I have a very similar interest as you and I really loved your portfolio! I just wanted to know where you ended up going?

Nov 8, 21 6:55 pm  · 
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_N8_

I'm at Michigan! I'm actually loving it and there are plenty of opportunities to learn and practice social and design justice. Hope to see you here!

Nov 8, 21 11:26 pm  · 
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How do you practice social and design justice?

Nov 9, 21 10:27 am  · 
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_N8_

Great question, actually practicing is tricky as it is academia. But I'm eagerly awaiting to get involved in the Public Design Corps (engaging with real community organizations) which is allegedly being incorporated into the studio curriculum. But plenty of learning opportunities - I'm organizing panel discussions on mutual aid, getting involved in the HUD competition (which is not strictly Michigan but we have a great pipeline), and hearing from faculty on their perspectives and built work.

Nov 9, 21 1:08 pm  · 
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Don't forget to actually learn how to design. With projects like this you'll need to be creative and know how to design buildings that are low cost. This translates into having a solid understanding of constructability, building sciences, and detailing.

Nov 9, 21 1:40 pm  · 
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_N8_

Definitely; the architect has to bring some expertise to these projects or we just become annoying brainstormers. Good points

Nov 9, 21 3:30 pm  · 
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I'd suggest looking at the faculty and the work they do versus the label. Who is doing the engagement work and how? Also, look at the studio work. Is there travel, where to, and under what premises? Added, what do the outcomes (text, images, etc.) look like? That will reveal a lot as well.

Looking at those three points will give you a more accurate reading than asking the room.

Nov 9, 21 10:38 am  · 
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I'd add to look at the practical outcome of the projects. Are they only hypothetical projects are they actually being implemented / built. If so what was result?

Nov 9, 21 10:48 am  · 
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reallynotmyname

And, does the program do design work on projects for free that small firms based in the community could have done?


Nov 9, 21 3:40 pm  · 
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