Roger Williams University
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Roger Williams University: American architecture education, ultimate career boost

A graduate architecture education at Roger Williams University (RWU) maximises an international student’s value and return on their investment with a STEM-designated programme, paid internships, exploration of various subdisciplines, and work on real-world projects with top architecture firms.

The experience, as described by Master of Architecture (M.Arch) graduate Juan Osorio from Colombia, is “really good” for graduate students. He now works as an architectural designer at Summit Design and Engineering Services in Cary, North Carolina. Every day, he discovers new ways his experience at RWU prepared him well to take on the challenges of his career. It starts from recruitment itself, with architecture firms holding Osorio’s educational background in high regard.

“We are competitive against really big schools. I heard from firms that we are better prepared,” he says.

The M.Arch programme blends architectural expertise with training in cultural sensitivity, covering environmental, social, historical, and artistic aspects. NAAB-accredited, the M.Arch is as inspiring as it’s impactful, empowering students to create designs that enhance their surroundings while capturing the essence of a region, a site, spaces, and details.

Set in the safest college town in America, the Cummings School of Architecture is located in Bristol, Rhode Island, between Boston and New York City. Here, students from diverse backgrounds not only leverage the opportunities in their surrounding communities but also curate the right mindset and skills to convey human values through built environment designs.

The rigorous curriculum of the programme is paired with different settings to bring what students learn to life. These include studios, lectures, seminars, internships, study abroad trips, fieldwork, public forums, conferences, and community service. As a result, students gain a depth of understanding of the components of architectural practice and of the diverse nature and variety of roles for architects in relation to other fields. They also develop strategic thinking and communication skills, making them versatile graduates capable of addressing issues ranging from sustainability to urbanism and historic preservation.

Brigida Capicotto, a graduate now working as an architectural designer at KITE Architects, attests to the programme’s effectiveness. She had her own desk every semester of every year of the studio experience. “A lot of places don’t offer that,” says the graduate of the 4+1.5 Bachelor of Science in Architecture/Master of Architecture degree. “They had us doing hand drawings all of the first year and then they introduced us to the computer. That was really valuable because at most schools you just start on the computer and don’t learn as much.”

With these experiences in hand, Capicotto is confidently tackling the demands of her job. “The graduate programme was career-driven and they offered a lot of different internships through the school. It gave me a lot of experience that helped me get my job,” Capicotto says.

M.Arch students can add a graduate certificate in Preservation Practices, Real Estate, or Urban and Regional Planning to their degree, too. Designed for graduate students across various fields — architecture, construction, law, and real estate — these certificates can be completed with no additional coursework, time, or cost if paired with the M.Arch programme.

Graduate Joselynn Lyford benefitted from this as she customised her degree to focus on what she found personally significant for her future career. This approach allowed her to specialise in areas that genuinely intrigued her. “The real estate certificate showed me different perspectives of the built environment — how it works financially and economically,” Lyford says. “It helped me focus on the changing needs and wants of today’s market and how I can adapt architecture and design to successfully fill those spaces.”

Through Teaching Firms in Residence, Cummings School brings professional practice into the classroom. Firms — such as Boston’s Hacin + Associates, New Haven’s Gray Organschi Architecture, Baltimore’s Ayers Saint Gross, Amsterdam’s Tangram Architekten — teach graduate studio courses every semester, allowing students to work on real-world projects with top firms. This way, students gain valuable exposure and become better equipped to tackle the demands of the architecture industry.

Pair it with state-of-the-art facilities such as the Architecture Design Studios, and M.Arch students gain valuable insights from these renowned firms and architects who visit and teach on campus. In fact, this was one of the main reasons Saudi Arabian national, Abdulmajed Aljabhan chose RWU.

“The Teaching Firm in Residence programme played a pivotal role in my decision to enrol at RWU,” Aljabhan says. “The faculty isn’t just academics; many are active practitioners in the field of architecture. On top of that, the Teaching Firm in Residence programme brings professionals from leading firms into the educational environment to impart practical, real-world architectural knowledge and expertise to students.”

These industry connections lead to outstanding job opportunities for M.Arch graduates — greater so for international students as they have the chance to pursue Optional Practical Training (OPT). For a STEM-designated programme like M.Arch, international students are eligible for the 24-month extension of OPT, in addition to their initial 12-month OPT period. This extension allows them to gain valuable work experience and explore job opportunities in the US for up to 36 months following graduation.

Perhaps the biggest impact of their RWU experience is how M.Arch students are ready to hit the ground running by the time they graduate. Through its award-winning Career Investment Programme, all M.Arch students are guaranteed paid internship opportunities, allowing them to gain practical experience on or off campus in career-relevant work placements anywhere in Boston, New York, across the US or internationally.

“The internship helped me and many others to find a full-time job after graduation,” says M.Arch graduate Abdullah Soufan. “It widened my mind and made me aware of all the other aspects of the industry which they don’t teach in school, from marketing and reaching out to clients to contract negotiations and public bids and management skills.”

Click here to learn more about the M.Arch at Roger Williams University.

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