Robert Alexander González, dean of the UNM School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P) will serve as the President of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) beginning July 1, 2021. ASCA membership includes all accredited architecture schools in the United States and Canada, as well as international schools and 2- and 4-year programs.
Representing more than 7,000 faculty educating some 40,000 students, the association played a pivotal role in helping architecture schools swiftly transition to online and remote learning platforms during the Coronavirus pandemic. It hosted a series of webinars year-round to help educators the beginning of the pandemic. ACSA committees also produced whitepapers that become resources for higher education institutions and faculty.
“It’s an exciting time to step into the presidency, with access to such a large membership that is continually growing,” González said. “We’ve faced challenges learning how to teach architecture and architecture studio online but have helped innovate and advance many global online initiatives. One of my goals is to continue facilitating that growth in opportunity and membership.”
González has served in ACSA leadership for several years already, as the second vice president in 2019 and vice president in 2020. All member schools took part in an election for the upcoming academic year, selecting the new president based on platform. González focused on increasing access to higher education, particularly through community colleges; and growing school’s leadership to include more faculty of color.
González joined the faculty at The University of New Mexico in July 2020 – at the height of the pandemic. Prior to his move to New Mexico, he worked at Texas Tech University (TTU). A registered architect in the State of Texas, González served as the Director of both the Architecture Program there, where he also led the professional program, managing undergraduate education (supervising all faculty on the El Paso campus), student recruiting, admissions, fundraising, strategic planning and graduation, and the TTU El Paso Regional Site.
His passion for creating access to education has already become evident during his time at UNM, where he launched the inaugural Architecture + Design Summer Academy in summer 2021. The program was structured similarly to one he spearheaded in El Paso, which was incredibly successful and garnered national media attention. It not only creates a pipeline from high schools to architecture schools, but also strengthens connections between community colleges and four-year institutions.
“Historically there is a stigma against community colleges, and some architecture programs don’t accept community college credit,” González explained. “That results in students taking a lot of duplicate classes. We’re trying to show the transition can be seamless. At UNM, we’re actively working to bring in someone who will head a recruiting effort to grow our articulation agreement numbers and ensure access to a greater number of students.”
“Creating and strengthening partnerships can help get rid of the stigma and grow confidence that community colleges are really viable and are jewels in the rough,” González added. “I’m strategizing how association memberships can be better connected to community colleges and how the ACSA can facilitate and encourage those connections.”
González pointed out that community colleges are typically planted in and throughout neighborhoods, creating easier access to all socioeconomic groups. This greater access to educational opportunities and diverse faculty will also be a focus of his tenure with ACSA. He plays a major role and was a founding member of the recently announced Deans' Equity and Inclusion Initiative, which aims to curate a community of early career faculty from a diversity of backgrounds and experiences in leading national architecture and planning schools. The initiative particularly focuses on expanding opportunities for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) faculty –something González is also concentrating on at the UNM SA+P.
The mission of the initiative is to encourage teaching and researching the built environment to advance socio-ecological and spatial justice, equity, and inclusion. González says having a faculty – especially deans, associate deans and chairs – who mirror the cultural diversity of their students is essential to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education.
“It is so exciting to see our students have access and impact, and to be part of an association that is helping make that happen,” he concluded.
Diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education will also be the focus of the upcoming ACSA Annual Meeting, titled Empower, which González will be chairing in March 2022. He is currently in the process of organizing and coordinating the meeting with fellow deans, Monica Ponce de Leon, Princeton University, and Milton Curry, University of Southern California.
Former UNM School of Architecture and Planning dean Geraldine Forbes Isais also served as president of the ASCA, from 2003-2004.