UT-San Antonio Launches Integrated Design College

LPA Principal Mark Oppelt encouraged university to develop new College of Engineering and Integrated Design

The University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA) recently combined its architecture and engineering programs to create the College of Engineering and Integrated Design (CEID), a new prototype for an integrated design curriculum.

“Five years from now, I believe other colleges will be using this visionary approach as a model for their programs, which will set the stage for greater integration for our industry,” said LPA principal Mark Oppelt, who assisted the university with the development of the program.

One of the first programs of its kind, the new College will focus on developing a collaborative, multi-discipline approach to design, and “position the university on the cutting edge of transdisciplinary research, academic programming and workforce preparation for students,” according to UTSA’s announcement.

Oppelt served on the UTSA’s Professional Advisory Committee, using LPA’s pioneering integrated approach as an example to help guide the school’s transition and optimize the curriculum to prepare students for the professional world.

“LPA is a national leader in integrated design and having Mark on the Advisory Council has been very impactful in informing the best way to shape this new program,” said Sedef Doganer, Ph.D., Interim Director of the School of Architecture and Planning.

Oppelt has been deeply involved with UTSA for many years, frequently consulting with faculty on curriculum and serving as a judge on senior projects. He also wrote a letter of recommendation to the state to help the school’s master’s program achieve its STEM designation. In 2020, Oppelt received AIA-San Antonio’s Legacy Award, the chapter’s highest honor, which recognizes a member for “a lifetime of distinguished leadership and dedication to architecture, the profession and the community.”

LPA frequently hires UTSA graduates, Oppelt noted.

“There is immense benefit in broadening students’ horizons with a more integrated way of doing things before they enter the workforce,” Oppelt said. “At LPA we believe the best design comes from a more collaborative approach, and this is an innovative move by the university that will benefit both students and the profession as a whole.”

The College of Engineering and Integrated Design was developed from recommendations from UTSA’s Integrated Design Initiative Task Force, consultation with internal and external stakeholders, and approval by The University of Texas System on behalf of its Board of Regents. The transition effort included students, city officials and the university’s Engineering and Architecture Advisory Councils.

The new college combines the academic departments and programs formerly under the College of Engineering and the College of Architecture, Construction and Planning. It is administratively organized into two schools: one that includes Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering and Construction Management and a second that includes Architecture and Planning. The new college also houses three departments: Biomedical and Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering. The new college is expected to house approximately 4,300 students, 117 faculty members and 41 staff members.

“By intentionally bringing students and faculty in these complimentary disciplines together in the learning environment, the College of Engineering and Integrated Design will ensure our students are well-prepared not just for their first job but for their bold future in these professions,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy,
UTSA Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, in a press release.

In addition to benefiting project design, an integrated approach can advance the industry’s efforts to reduce energy use and carbon emissions.

“To make an impact on climate change and meet the 2030 Challenge, all of the professions must work together through an integrated approach to create better performing, more sustainable buildings,” Oppelt said. “Starting at the college level is the best way to ensure young professionals have the tools they need to prioritize energy efficiency.”