Two heads are better than one, according to new leadership model in UB’s architecture program

Joyce Hwang and Korydon Smith take over as co-leaders of UB's architecture department.

Joyce Hwang and Korydon Smith introduce a collaborative leadership model to UB's architecture department. Photo by Maryanne Schultz

by Rachel Teaman

Published November 1, 2018

The School of Architecture and Planning opens the 2018-19 academic year with two new faces in the Department of Architecture’s administrative wing in Hayes Hall.

Marking a new era of co-leadership for the department are chair Korydon Smith, a professor of architecture who served as the school’s associate dean for academic affairs for the past five years, and associate chair Joyce Hwang, an associate professor of architecture.

The collaborative model leverages leadership capacity as the program navigates a new era of growth and development. Indeed, the program’s highly practice-driven approach to research has put UB on the front line of issues as diverse as climate change and material innovation, and in the center of communities from Buffalo to India. At the same time, like most institutions of higher education, the department is diversifying its programs and student enrollment in response to demographic shifts and national workforce trends.

“We’re faced with the confluence of unprecedented opportunity and challenge across our academic programs,” says Dean Robert G. Shibley, who appointed Smith and Hwang at the recommendation of the architectural chair search committee.

Shibley continued: “Kory and Joyce bring a powerfully diverse combination of architectural and design scholarship and practice experience that reinforce our existing programs and open new doors in research and teaching.”

Smith is dually trained in architecture and higher education leadership,  with research interests in design for diversity, health and social justice. He serves as co-director of UB’s Community of Excellence in Global Health Equity. Hwang is an award-winning architect and former director of professional studies for the department. She pursues research and critical practice at the intersection of architecture and emerging urban ecologies.

The leadership pair succeed Omar Khan, associate professor of architecture, who led the program from 2011 to 2018, a period in which the department grew its faculty and programs, diversified its student body, and secured an eight-year re-accreditation term, the longest offered by the National Architectural Accreditation Board.

Smith and Hwang will build on this work with new supports for students and faculty, promoting both individual development and the growth of the collective.

“Design is a physical and social process; the same can be said for human development,” said Smith. “Students enter our undergraduate program at a critical point in their development, and faculty are continuously evolving as scholars and professionals. We will work together to help one another actualize our personal and professional potential while continuing to raise the program’s international reputation.”

Other shifts in the department include closer student engagement in departmental decision making, and curricular adjustments that further build student-faculty relationships for teaching, learning and mentoring.

Such a model responds to the increasing number of college-age students expressing concerns about stress and anxiety, which has doubled in the past 10 years. Those anxieties are particularly critical for traditionally underrepresented minorities and those from lower-income backgrounds who face other socio-economic stressors.

 “We have set our program apart through our commitment to architecture’s role in enabling progressive social values,” said Hwang. “We will continue to press ourselves to explore architecture as a material, spatial, and experimental practice that has the capacity incite and inspire productive social change.”

Smith and Hwang also aim to expand support for faculty research, particularly at the interdisciplinary scale. UB architecture faculty are already playing lead roles across the spectrum of new research at the university, including UB’s Communities of Excellence in Global Health Equity and Sustainable Manufacturing and Advanced Robotic Technologies, as well as the RENEW (Research and Education in eNergy, Environment and Water) Institute.

According to national data, the Department of Architecture is a top performer in research compared with other architecture programs in the Association of American Universities (AAU). For instance, UB is among the nation’s top five programs for total grant dollars awarded to faculty.[1]

A particular strength of the program has been its intensive engagement with architectural practice and industry. From ongoing relationships with Buffalo-based architectural manufacturers to an affordable housing initiative that engages developers and designers in New York City, the program’s research partnerships have also opened new pathways into the profession for students.

Smith and Hwang will focus on expanding the program’s professional engagements with firms and organizations operating in emerging practice areas, including non-profit and non-government organizations addressing global challenges closely linked to design, from global health to sustainable building materials.

Korydon Smith, EdD, professor and chair of architecture at UB

Korydon Smith, EdD, professor and chair of architecture at UB

Smith joined the UB architecture faculty in 2012 from the University of Arkansas, where he served 11 years as professor in its Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design and pursued applied research in public policy and design with a focus on housing, including both domestic work and scholarship abroad. His sixth book, Interpreting Kigali, Rwanda: Architectural Inquiries and Prospects for a Developing African City, came out this summer; and his current work is focused on refugee housing and settlement planning. He holds a Master of Architecture from UB (2001) and a doctorate in higher education leadership from the University of Arkansas (2010).

Joyce Hwang, associate professor and associate chair of architecture at UB

Joyce Hwang, associate professor and associate chair of architecture at UB

Hwang has been a member of UB’s architecture faculty since 2005. Director of the critical practice firm Ants of the Prairie, she is internationally recognized for her research. In 2014, she won the Emerging Voices Award from the Architectural League of New York State. She is a co-editor of the book, Beyond Patronage: Reconsidering Models of Practice (Actar, 2015). Since 1997, she has practiced professionally with offices in San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia, and Barcelona, Spain. She received her Master of Architecture from Princeton University (2003) and a Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University (1997).