January 23, 2014

An Architect of Success

Dean Glenn Wiggins

Glenn Wiggins, dean of the College of Architecture, Design, and Construction Management, has seen his college’s programs–Architecture, Construction Management, Industrial Design and Interior Design–flourish in recent years. After 20 years at Wentworth, he weighs in on how the Institute’s mission has transformed into action, and how this action has transformed into success.

What is the mission of the College of Architecture, Design, and Construction Management?

Glenn Wiggins: The mission of the College of Architecture, Design, and Construction Management is to graduate students who can go forth in their professional lives and make a positive difference in the world. We do this in three ways. First, creative problem-solving. Second, we model professional life. Third, we provide rich experiences.

Why study at Wentworth’s College of Architecture, Design, and Construction Management?

GW: We’re in Boston. Cooperative education. Study abroad. Collaboration between departments. The laptop program. Community service. Project-based learning–it’s a term you hear a lot these days. At Wentworth, project-based learning is just what we are. At the College of Architecture, Design, and Construction Management, we’ve been engaged in project-based learning for more than 20 years. We’re good at it.

What are some specific benefits of being in Boston?

GW: First, we’ve got incredible architecture around us, incredible design around us, so students can go see this work as part of their daily lives. Compare this with a school at a distance, even a small distance away from Boston. Once or twice a semester, [students] get on a bus with a faculty member that knows the city, they tour around, and they see Boston. Then they leave and go back to school. The rest of their learning occurs in school. It occurs in slides, it occurs in tapes, it occurs in Internet materials. That’s great, but it’s not the same as being here.

What makes Wentworth’s study abroad program stand out among others?

GW: First, we hire the faculty. Faculty that are teaching in our programs are Wentworth employees. They’re professionals from these countries. Many programs will send faculty to live with the students abroad. We feel like in semester abroad, [the students] should be studying with professionals from those countries. So we’re able to immerse them into the culture and into the programs they are going to be in. We maintain the same learning objectives, so the students in Boston have the same learning objectives as those [abroad]. We are able to graduate our students at the same time. In some colleges, semester abroad is simply an added semester.

What’s the purpose of the laptop program?

GW: At Wentworth, every freshman student is provided with a state-of-the-art laptop and state-of-the-art software. Upon graduation of their four-year program, it’s theirs to take. Master’s students receive a new laptop on entry. This means that we know the version of software they have is current. It means that we can weave it into our curriculum with knowledge that every student has the tools they need to do the job. When they become juniors, we take that laptop away and give them a new one.

Explain Wentworth’s emphasis on community service.

GW: A lot of colleges do this, but what does Wentworth do that’s special? One of the things we do is make a long-term commitment to the community we’re working with. After Hurricane Katrina hit in New Orleans, architecture programs across the country, in tremendous effort, came in and worked with the community to try to provide some relief. And that’s great. At Wentworth, we made a five-year commitment. We didn’t run in for one semester, do some work and then leave. Instead, we went for five years, returning and working in the community. So we’re able to make a lasting and positive difference.

How do we know all of these efforts are paying off?

GW: One way we know that is because each of our programs in the last two years went through its major accreditation report. And each of the programs received the maximum possible term of accreditation– just a terrific thing. So outside accreditation, outside assessment is telling us we’ve got great programs. [And in] each of our departments, students and the programs themselves have been recognized as leaders by industry publications. 

Can you give us some examples of these students and programs?

GW: Construction Management was named by the National Center for Educational Statistics in an article by Rock and Dirt this year as one of the top five construction management programs in the U.S. New England Homes awards the prestigious “5 under 40” award every year. And for the past three years, Wentworth students have been in the top five. For the last three years in architecture, there’s a student competition held by the Boston Society of Architects. For the past three years, Wentworth architecture students and Wentworth interior students have taken 60 to -70 percent of the awards.

How do the Architecture, Design, and Construction Management faculty contribute to the school’s success?

GW: Our faculty are absolutely terrific and they’ll compete with anyone. As you look at other college catalogues, look at the faculty credentials. Our faculty credentials are second to none. Our faculty have active, engaged practices, where they’re winning national and international awards. Faculty regularly present at conferences–nationally and internationally–and our faculty are published in some of the most prestigious journals.

And what about student/alumni relationships?

GW: At Wentworth, the time that you spend is not just about the four years you’re on campus, but about the time upon graduation and beyond. At Wentworth, you enter a community of alumni who are very close-knit and who look out for one another. When you’re looking for advice, when you’re looking for work, when you’re looking for employees, Wentworth students look out for one another.

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