The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture’s application to operate as an entity independent from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation was approved by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) in late February of this year. This decision allows the School to maintain its accreditation as an independent institution of higher learning.
The School, established as an apprentice program in 1932 by Frank Lloyd Wright and initially accredited in 1987, had been accredited without interruption since then, and was operated as part of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. As a result of changes in the HLC’s accreditation requirements, it became necessary for the School to become an independent entity if it was to continue its accreditation. In August of 2014 the School’s survival as a separate, accredited entity seemed unassured.
In September of 2014 the School agreed to raise $1 million by Aug. 31, 2015 and an additional $1 million by the end of 2015 as part of the requirements to maintain accreditation. School staff, students, Board of Governors, alumni and other supporters around the world responded immediately and worked tirelessly to raise the funds needed to prove the School’s independent financial viability. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation pledged to maintain its provision of physical space for the School both at Taliesin and Taliesin West, as well as transitional financial support as the School achieved financial independence required by HLC. This cooperative assistance was an aid to the School’s efforts.
The School’s Campaign for Independence was initially hampered by the School having no development personnel of its own and by the fact that it was in the middle of a search for a new dean. Impressive early fundraising and the organizing of other School matters were greatly bolstered by the hiring of new Dean Aaron Betsky and a talented school development professional in the spring of 2015.
The faculty and staff have worked with the dean to put exciting new plans (and the continuation of appreciated historic ones) for both pedagogy and curriculum in place, and the School expects to begin operating as an independent entity in August of this year. One significant and immediate development—the School’s presentation of a series of architectural talks by noted architects—has garnered national praise. This series is named the Taliesin Forum and is open to the public. In addition, the School has developed a collaborative relationship with two Arizona mining towns with students and faculty creating architectural design projects to enhance and improve these communities.
The School must continue, as do all institutions of higher learning, to meet HLC standards in the coming years. Meanwhile, interest in the school and student applications are increasing, and there is an air of anticipation and verve on the two campuses.
Sandra Shane-DuBow is a member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy Board of Directors and a member of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture Board of Governors.
Posted on April 3, 2017