Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture

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The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture is fighting to keep its accreditation. Nick Mancusi, an alumnus of the school, will talk about that.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons.

Ted Simons: The Frank Lloyd Wright School of architecture's governing board is fighting to keep its accreditation. Nick Mancusi an alumnus of the school and a Scottsdale architect is here to tell us more. Thank you for being here. Let's define terms. The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architect as opposed to the foundation.

Nick Mancusi: The Frank Lloyd Wright foundation was the foundation that was created by Frank Lloyd Wright and was put together at that point. The school is basically a subsidiary of that so to speak, under the umbrella of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation that offers an accredited masters of architecture program.

Ted Simons: How long has that school been around?

Nick Mancusi: The school was founded in 1932 as the fellowship but accredited in 1987 as a fully accredited program.

Ted Simons: Number of students?

Nick Mancusi: Roughly 20 students that attend the school there on a year-round program, between Wisconsin and Arizona.

Ted Simons: How about degrees offered?

Nick Mancusi: Currently it's just the Master of Architecture degree, which is a professional accredited degree.

Ted Simons: So -- Before we get off the school, the impact of the school on architecture.

Nick Mancusi: It's vast. It's humongous. You're talking about the legacy of an icon. One of the greatest architects. The school was designed to be a refuge from intricate decisional institution. Wright joked about how Harvard turned good plums into prunes so to speak. And it's always been that way to offer an alternative route through education, in preparing you to become a licensed architect. The legacy is huge. So it's massive.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, the school is in trouble. Why?

Nick Mancusi: Well, it's coming down to a point of what we call regional accreditation. There's two different types of accreditation, the architecture accreditation that looks at the curriculum, and then there's the higher learning commission, the regional accreditation, that looks at how a school is able to be put together to be able to grant the degree so to speak. And for a while the school and the foundation have known about HOC's change in the policy, which is looking to have the school have a little more financial autonomy over itself. To separate that to be able to make financial decisions.

Ted Simons: It sounds like the new rule, to quote, the school must be separately incorporated from the sponsoring organization, I.E. the foundation.

Nick Mancusi: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: And is that not possible?

Nick Mancusi: No. I mean, it's very possible. Back -- Roughly two years ago there was a study done to look at different alternatives, how the school could be kind of approached from the foundation's perspective, and there's very easy ways simply by having an arrangement with the school, a separate -- As was stated incorporated organization, but still having a governance relationship with the foundation just allowing it to be able to make financial decisions that benefit the students, the faculty and staff.

Ted Simons: I think the foundation, I think would be understandably concerned about a lack of oversight or lack of control on their part. Is that a valid concern?

Nick Mancusi: The challenge is that the school is the best candidate to make those decisions over curriculum. The foundation is an organization that is concerned with Wright's legacy, certainly, but as well as the -- The school itself has to be able to have that flexibility, create a program that's going to benefit the students and achieve the educational outcomes they're looking for.

Ted Simons: If the accreditation is a problem, could the school maybe partner up with another school that is accredited?

Nick Mancusi: Well, that's been gone along too. There's two different ways to look at partnership. It's a matter of sharing financial resources and faculty resources; sure, I don't think the school is opposed to that. But partnering with another program, you run into the accreditation issue, who's actually granting the degree at this point? Say if you're to partner with a local University, likely that accreditation especially the architectal professional degree will go to that school, and not Taliesin. In turn the school would no longer be.

Ted Simons: Is there concern that the foundation is just not interested in the school anymore?

Nick Mancusi: I think there's confusion around that. There's a majority of the foundation board that is for the school that wants to keep it going. Unfortunately it requires super majority to make this decision. But there is a growing concern amongst the alumnus, amongst the architect community, the students enrolled on what's happening, and is in the right decision.

Ted Simons: And when we talk about accreditation, losing accreditation. The impact that would have on the Frank Lloyd Wright School.

Nick Mancusi: Absolutely. Again, as I mentioned earlier, it's becoming -- Being a part of an accredited degree program is paramount in becoming an architect with a capital A as Wright used to refer. In his will he talked about this idea of Taliesin preparing students to be an architect.

Ted Simons: Last question, in looking into this, I heard critics basically saying the time has passed for the Frank Lloyd Wright school. There are so many opportunities, so other avenues for architects to learn the skill, to learn the craft. Comment on that.

Nick Mancusi: It's sad to hear that. I don't believe that's true. It's been looked at as this refuge, but also as this opportunity to explore architectural education from a principle-based standpoint. This idea of learn by doing, the shelter program there, there's so many different things that it does from an average architectural program, that without it there would be a hole in architectural education and the future of the profession.

Ted Simons: How long -- What's next with all this?

Nick Mancusi: Well, right now what we're trying to do, the alumni group has started a friends of the school where you, help donate money, and you can help -- They're trying to help create a pathway for the school to become financially autonomous. But as well as just kind of understanding what's happening at this point, and really helping the school move towards that direction and hope that the foundation will sway in the direction of keeping an accredited program.

Ted Simons: All right. Good to have you. Thanks for joining us.

Nick Mancusi: Thank you very much.

Nick Mancusi:Alumnus, Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture;

Nils Lofgren

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