College of Design faces major restructuring

Jacob Stewart

A cursory glance at the College of Design tells little about its current state of affairs. Asking some questions, however, will reveal that the college faces some major restructuring plans over the next few years.

Ever since the induction of Luis Rico-Gutierrez as the new dean in June of 2009, plans for a re-design of the College of Design have been in the works.

“The first thing I wanted to do was go through a strategic planning phase with the faculty,” Gutierrez said. “This is not simply change for the sake of change.”

At the heart of this initiative is a basic funding issue. Iowa State is one of a group of land-grant universities in the United States, meaning that it focuses more on science and technology education options than on liberal arts and design.

In order to help the College of Design mesh with the other colleges and the environment of the university, changes are being made.

State appropriations are at an all-time low, nearly 20 percent lower than last year, Gutierrez said. This is the only time that student tuition has made more of a financial contribution to the university than outside funds. 

Changes Gutierrez plans to implement include strengthening the college’s research culture, attracting more students and making the degrees offered applicable to today’s hectic architecture-, design-, landscape- and computer-driven society. A focus on multi-disciplinarian education is also being addressed.

Gutierrez gave an example of finding a way to provide fresh water to a remote village. You can’t simply use graphic design or landscape architecture to do a good job. You would need to blend all your education to come up with the best solution.

Six new degrees are also being discussed at this time — four graduate degrees and two undergrad options. The faculty plans to have this draw in more students and make the education received at Iowa State applicable later on in life.

Another effect of this restructuring plan was that all the chairpersons became department directors, bringing a major change in the way things at the college are run.

Since the chairpersons became program directors, they are able to more closely monitor their area of concentration instead of being spread thin across a wider range of majors and degrees. This allows them to do their job efficiently and personally.

David Ringholz is the program director for industrial design. This is his first year working at the college, but he likes where the changes are headed.

“Design had become less and less of a factor,” Ringholz said. “Historically it has always been funded less than the science colleges, but now we’re an aggressive growth model instead of a status quo model.”

Ringholz said people are a little nervous about the changes, but they are also excited and watching closely to see the outcome.