Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of Q-and-A’s with UT’s deans. This interview has been condensed.
The Daily Texan: You are one of the longest-serving deans on campus, having been in the position since 2001. What are the most interesting changes you have seen in the work done in the school and the types of students who matriculate?
Frederick Steiner: We get very bright young people. They are very smart, motivated and hard-working. I think the thing that has changed the most in the past couple of years is that they have become more idealistic. Before the recession, jobs were plentiful, so every student had several offers. During the recession, the students became more entrepreneurial... their idea of architecture expanded. A lot more became interested in public interest design. They also began to blur the edges of design. A lot of them are now interested in gaming and graphic design.
DT: What are the major projects that are going on in the School of Architecture?
Steiner: The biggest thing we are working on is the renovation of Battle Hall. Battle Hall is our initial library on campus, which is over 100 years old and needs restoration. And the library is not handicap accessible. So one of the three parts of the project is to connect us to buildings that will help our handicap access... and fire safety. We will convert the West Mall Office Building into much-needed studios and classroom spaces. We’ve also ramped up our research areas like green building design. The third part of the project is a modest addition for John Chase who was one of the first African-American students at the University. The three parts of the project involve preservation, infrastructure improvement and classroom and research space issues.
DT: What kind of work do your graduates do?
Steiner: Most architecture majors end up working at private firms. Planning majors mostly work at public agencies. Landscape architecture is kind of in between. Interior design did well during the recession because buildings may not be built, but they still have to redo interiors. They are mostly in the private sector. The growth area has been the nonprofit sector. More people have gone to work for public health or nonprofit housing agencies or watershed associations.
DT: Since you started as dean, have you seen any changes in the numbers of students enrolled in the school’s programs?
Steiner: It’s been really constant. The undergraduate enrollment is pretty constant all the way back to the ‘70s. The graduate’ enrollment has increased through time. The number of graduate application in architecture spike during the recession, then came back down a little bit and now just went up by 100 more applicants this year. Our intake is about the same. We stay around 700 students.
DT: How important do you find fundraising to be to the School of Architecture?
Steiner: Absolutely essential.
DT: And do you find it’s become more essential since you started?
Steiner: Yes. The Capital Campaign was a huge success. Battle Hall is a $70 million project. President Powers has said that [we] need to come up with between $10 and 15 million.
DT: How soon does the school expect to reach that goal?
Steiner: I get discouraged a little bit because people are generous but sometimes not as generous as we would like them to be. [Laura] Bush has been incredibly helpful [as our honorary chair]. She really loves libraries, so that’s her connection. She is really hands-on, and has been giving us really specific suggestions.
DT: Is there anything else you’d like students to know about the School of Architecture?
Steiner: It’s a terrific school. The one other challenge we face is keeping up with technology. If we want to stay as a leader, we need to invest more technology. My fear is that we have fallen behind where we should be with technology. If the biggest budget challenge is Battle Hall restoration, technology is probably the second big one, followed by faculty salaries and graduate student stipends for recruitment.