About the El Paso Program
Our program encourages and supports underrepresented students from the very early stages of their education.
Middle + High School Regional and On-Campus Engagement
We organize a middle and high school architectural design competition in collaboration with the El Paso STEAM Fiesta, which is the largest regional 3-day competition event, which includes robotics, programming, design, and coding. The competition is designed to foster collaboration among schools and to expose underrepresented students to architecture via on-campus workshops leading to the competition. The winning groups are awarded $2,000 and below.
Our program also hosts a two-week Summer Architecture Camp with middle and high school students where our faculty guide students to design, draw, and construct architectural models within a studio-like setting. This gives students who otherwise do not have access to summer camps, an opportunity to participate in intellectually enriching and collaborative experiences. This camp is subsidized with materials, tools, and snacks, by our program through community donations to render it accessible to all. Many students who attend the summer camp enroll in our program later on.
The main impediment to higher education in the El Paso and Ciudad Juarez region is affordability. To ameliorate this, the El Paso program works closely with the El Paso Community College Architecture Program to provide high quality affordable college education to our local students via a 2 + 2 structure. While students study at EPCC, we work closely with their faculty to ensure a smooth curricular transition into our program. The student body population is between 98% and 100% Hispanic, for many of them English is a learned language. Our faculty and staff are bilingual and work with our students to ensure maximum retention through collaborative platforms and extended office hours.
CoA @ El Paso
Our diverse faculty engages our students directly through tailored curriculum. Our design studios focus on regional and binational issues of migration, cultural exchange, ecology, logistics, and the ways in which urban and architectural design impacts these issues. The studio curriculum is designed to empower our underrepresented students with the design and representation tools to give image to their contested context and to record their diverse regional heritage. As some of our students cross the border to attend classes every day, their ability to articulate the binational/bicultural/bilingual issues becomes important for their ownership of the narrative. Our goal is to educate tomorrow' leaders, and to empower our students to practice architecture in their own context.
Additionally curriculum has planned for a week-long travel every semester to major metropolitan cities around the country. Student, lead by faculty, visit New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Diego, Seattle, and Chicago, where they visit graduate programs, meet with Deans, and visit internationally renowned architectural firms where they create lasting connections for potential internships.
In order to ensure our students success in their professional endeavors after graduation, we facilitate access to local organizations and government leadership via collaborations in both El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. In El Paso we offer a Historic Preservation internship with the City of El Paso's department of preservation, as well as the El Paso Community Foundation. In Ciudad Juarez we are currently organizing a collaborative series of workshops with NGOs which support migrants and other underserved communities with language, job, and computer skills through the design of community centers.
The El Paso program is home to POST, the CoA's research center which focuses on research and design in issues of urbanization and desertification in the border region in order to empower underserved communities with better design tools. The research center offers several paid research assistant positions to students each semester, who are trained in advanced data visualization and have opportunities to collaborate on publications, conferences, and community projects.
Many of our students are the first generation in their families to study in college and many of them are deeply connected to their immigration roots. Our faculty support them in their desires to give back to their communities and to allow their own heritage to become the bridge between the College and their context.
During the migrant influx from South America this past winter, a few of them were concerned with the living conditions of migrants awaiting their paperwork processing in Juarez before they crossed the border to the US. A group of students approached our faculty and asked for help. They wanted to design better shelters to protect the children who were sleeping outdoors in freezing temperatures. Our faculty supported the students in the design of portable shelters and fundraising.
Another group of students expressed the desire to volunteer their time during spring break to construct public space in informal and underserved communities in Lima, Peru. Our faculty supported this desire by connecting the students with an NGO in Peru which supports a student enrichment experience with staff and logistical support, as well as securing funding for their international flights. Unfortunately, this activity was not fulfilled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Beyond the Program
Our faculty organize portfolio workshops geared towards graduate school applications and potential employment. Through our annual Career Fair, our students are given the opportunity to interview with leading local and national firms, to which they would not be otherwise exposed.
Through the portfolio workshops, our faculty works closely and intensely with our students in order to ensure their continued success. Generally, 25-55% of our graduating students apply to graduate programs, and almost all of them receive scholarships, including several students with full scholarships. Our graduates continue their studies at Princeton, Yale, Harvard, MIT, Rice, CCA, SCI_Arc and others, where they excel. Our nationally renowned faculty enjoys collegiate relationships with many faculty in the mentioned institutions, where they continue to stay in touch and follow our students' progress.