CLEMSON — “DesignIntelligence” magazine has named Clemson University President James F. Barker one of the Most Admired Educators of 2011. The publication also named Clemson’s graduate program in architecture one of the nation’s top 20.

“DesignIntelligence” selects a team of educators and education administrators who exemplify excellence in design education leadership, according to Jane Gaboury, editor and associate publisher.

“It’s a well-deserved recognition” for Barker, she said. “We make this determination with extensive input from hundreds of design professionals, academic department heads and students. The input comes through our separate practitioner, educator and student surveys, and the final selections are made by the ‘DesignIntelligence’ staff.”

Barker, a fellow in the American Institute of Architects, was dean of architecture at Clemson before he became president. He continues to teach as part of a team that offers a course each spring exploring “sense of place” in architecture, literature and history.

Another member of that team, English professor Bill Koon, said, “I have worked in universities for nearly 50 years and directly with Jim Barker for 20. I have never seen an administrator more connected to the classroom, more devoted to students. What he has done, what he does, is nearly inspirational.”

According to noted architect and educator John Jaques of Greenville, Barker’s architectural perspective played a large role in shaping the Clemson campus now and in the future when a campus plan was developed at the onset of his administration.

“Jim’s influence on the campus plan was profound… He said we need to think about the campus as a garden. And his idea was not just that we think about it as beautifully landscaped space, but that we think about it as if the gardener is the teacher. And what the teacher is doing is nurturing the plants and activities of the place in a very similar way. So it’s a nurturing kind of an attitude, which I think is an interesting perspective, not only on teaching and learning but on what a university is all about,” Jacques said.

That leadership and vision is what lured Kate Schwennsen, former president of the American Institute of Architects, to Clemson, where she chairs the School of Architecture.

“One of the reasons I am here at Clemson is because of James Barker, the architect, teacher and university president,” she said. “As an accomplished architect and designer, he brings some unique and important attributes to his role as president, which shape the way he leads, and thus makes Clemson University a place I want to be.”

He understands the influence of the built environment and sense of place on quality of life, Schwennsen said. And he uses design thinking to make sense of seemingly contradictory sources of information — to engage with context, human factors, cultural affairs and social impact.

“President Barker uses design thinking to work at the intersections, between the gaps of science and intuition, to make informed decisions based on the optimization of possibilities; to conceptualize the big picture and to develop the details to get it done; and, most importantly, to design and communicate a clear vision that is optimistic, inspirational, future-oriented and achievable,” she said.

The School of Architecture’s graduate program is consistently recognized among the country’s best. The “DesignIntelligence” survey put Clemson and the Rhode Island School of Design in a tie for 20th. Among all public universities in the United States, Clemson’s graduate program is ranked ninth, and it was third among graduate programs in the Southeast.

“It is gratifying to be recognized by ‘DesignIntelligence,’ but the most meaningful recognition is for Clemson’s graduate program in architecture,” Barker said. “That’s a tribute to all the outstanding faculty, students and alumni who have worked so hard to bring our program to national prominence.”

“DesignIntelligence” is published by Greenway Communications for the Design Futures Council, an interdisciplinary network of design, product and construction leaders exploring global trends, challenges and opportunities to advance innovation and shape the future of the industry and the environment. It has the only national college ranking focused exclusively on design.

Architecture has been taught at Clemson University since 1913. In addition to the program in historic Lee Hall on the main campus, the School of Architecture has programs in Charleston; Barcelona, Spain; and Genoa, Italy. This fall, the program is home to 109 graduate students, 266 undergraduate students and 36 faculty and staff.


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