Students, faculty comment on Speaks’ first semester as dean

Before a new chancellor joined the Syracuse University campus this spring, Michael Speaks joined SU in the fall as the new dean of the School of Architecture.

Speaks became a part of the Syracuse community in July. Previously, he taught in architecture programs at Harvard University and Columbia University.

Associate Dean of the School of Architecture Jonathan Solomon said that the dean’s arrival has generated excitement. Solomon has been working with Speaks on multiple projects, he added, including launching a program in New York City at the Fisher Center and a design studio with universities in Hong Kong and Taipei.

“I am particularly excited by the dean’s focus on research and our graduate programs,” Solomon said.

As candidates who applied to be dean went through an open interviewing process, Stephen Tortorella, a fifth-year architecture student, had the chance to witness and listen to the prospective candidates.

“Dean Speaks was always one I personally liked,” he said. “So I was excited to see what he would do here.”

Speaks can often be found roaming around Slocum Hall, which shows that he tried to be more directly engaged with student life, Tortorella said.

Tortorella said he hopes the School of Architecture can maintain its prestigious level in the future and continue to become better, adding that Speaks will help drive students forward.

In the case of the architecture school’s reputation, Bhumi Patel, a fifth-year architecture student, does not think that rankings matter, mainly because they may not accurately represent the students in each school.

She hopes the dean will focus more on improving the school’s technology. Although the school has 3-D printers and laser cutters, Patel said they could increase the number of machines available.

Speaks is interested in urban design and wants to play an active part in debates on city branding and find different models of city planning, according to a March 19 SU News release.

Other students also noticed Speaks’ changes to the school. Patel said the dean came in with a new mindset that was less structured and more theoretical.

“Last year was very structured,” she said. “When Speaks came in, he brought in a new wave of architects, and these professors are more in the contemporary present era, whereas people we’ve had before were more into the history.”

With this change, Patel said she has been able to change her thesis and, quite literally, think outside the box.

Check out the original article here.

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