When Christopher Silver began his role as dean of the College of Design, Construction and Planning in Fall 2006, he couldn’t imagine what the next decade would hold. UF was in the midst of national championships in football and basketball. The economy was strong and students flocked to DCP to pave a career in the design, construction and planning fields.
However, over the next few years, with budget cuts and enrollment declines triggered by the larger economic forces, the college was challenged to maintain quality, top-ranked programs. Under Silver’s leadership, DCP addressed these challenges by pushing forward new programs, undertaking some organization changes and turning to external funding sources to offset the reductions in state assistance and tuition dollars.
As Silver prepares to step down as dean and join the planning faculty of the School of Landscape Architecture and Planning, we reflect on the achievements and initiatives that began and flourished during the past 10 years.
New degree programs
- Launched in 2008, the Bachelor of Science in Sustainability and the Built Environment, the first degree of its kind in the U.S., became the fastest growing undergraduate major, reaching its goal of 100 students by 2016.
- DCP converted its Master of Science in Architectural Studies into a freestanding interdisciplinary Master of Historic Preservation.
- Owing to Dean Silver’s longstanding connections in Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia and Singapore, DCP initiated a Master of Sustainable Design program. It generated funding to support expansion of instructional technology within the college, which led to a growing inventory of web-based classes. The program also generated a global student cohort which included opportunities to travel to Singapore and the Netherlands to examine sustainability projects. It was cited in 2016 as the #1 online program in Architecture by CollegeValuesOnline.
- Joint degree programs with the Institute of Technology Bandung, Indonesia in urban and regional planning, and with the University of Indonesia in interior design, and a forthcoming Master of International Construction Management and Productivity with Singapore’s Building Construction Authority Academy all advanced DCP’s engagement in Asia, including increasing numbers of DCP students having a global experience in that region.
- Silver also worked with the Department of Urban and Regional Planning faculty to create the first fully online master’s degree which will go through accreditation within the next couple of years. The program has elevated its enrollment to more than 50 students drawn from a global marketplace, many working as professionals, but who need the online program to sustain their careers.
With the director of the School of Architecture and support from the architecture faculty, the UF Master of Architecture program expanded to two satellite facilities, CityLab-Orlando and CityLab-Sarasota. The Orlando facility, which has already produced three cohorts of graduates, has had a nearly 100% placement of its graduates in professional positions, most with firms in the Orlando community. That was the motivation behind this self-funded program, to enable staff in local design and construction firms to be able to secure the accredited degree while maintaining employment or pursuing an internship. Both programs were embraced by the local design communities.
DCP Doctoral Program
During Silver’s tenure as dean, the DCP doctoral program grew to more than 100 students, with high placement rates, reduced time to degrees and support from expanded graduate fellowships owing to higher graduate rates.
Through the Pride in Place campaign and Dean Silver’s focus on providing our students and faculty with the best facilities for their education and research, several enhancements were made through external funding:
- Improvements to create several state-of-the-art studio spaces, including an overall upgrading of all of the studios through glass storefronts and new work stations (fashioned by the students in a local competition)
- The creation of full-service digital fabrication laboratory
- The development of an innovative, collaborative teaching space, the CoLab
- Improved teaching and living spaces at the Nantucket, Massachusetts historic preservation field school, Preservation Institute Nantucket
During his deanship, Silver maintained his role as a teacher-scholar, by regularly teaching in both the on-campus and online planning programs (courses in sustainability and international development), in the MSD program, and in mentoring more than 20 master’s and Ph.D. students. Between 2006 and 2016, he published two books, has three more in press and contributed chapters and articles to scholarly journals and publications in his areas of sustainable development, planning and urban history and planning education.
Silver was inducted as a Fellow in the American Institute of Certified Planners in 2008, served as Chair and Co-Chair of the Global Planning Education Association Network, and Executive Secretary of the International Planning History Society, during which he organized international conferences for that association in Chicago and in St. Augustine. He was awarded the Martin Meyerson Award for Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning for has administrative leadership, and in 2012, he was the only non-Indonesian to be the recipient of the Ganesha Jasa Widya Utama award for contributions to education in Indonesia.
Moreover, life in Florida has helped to improve his tennis game. More important, as has observed on many occasions, all that DCP accomplished over the past decade is the result of commitment of faculty to a share vision of the great traditions of college programs, and how DCP needs to lead its professions in new directions appropriate to future challenges.