Will Wittig reflects on eight years as dean

Architecture Dean Will Wittig speaks at the 2018 Spirit of Detroit Mercy Alumni Achievement ceremony.
Architecture Dean Will Wittig speaks at the 2018 Spirit of Detroit Mercy Alumni Achievement ceremony.

As he steps down after eight years as dean of the School of Architecture, Will Wittig does not like to talk about anything as lofty as “his legacy.”

“If we talk about positive things that happened during my tenure, I’d have to say that the people who have come to the school during this time period is the biggest story,” Wittig said.

He is talking about the new positions created and the faculty and staff who have come to the School from across the country and the solidifying effect they have had on the SOA. When Wittig started as dean, there was no associate dean and a much smaller staff.

“I’m really grateful for and appreciative of the people who have joined our team,” he said.

The restructuring was needed for the program to grow. Enrollment is up 35 percent from four years ago and, at 228 students as of fall, is at its highest number since 2011.

The Detroit Collaborative Design Center continues to be a model of how universities can interact with the community, earning many awards and collecting millions of dollars in grants as it does work that brings University of Detroit Mercy national and international attention.

During his tenure as dean, the SOA completed the purchase of the building in Volterra, Italy, where the School operates its study abroad program.

That accomplishment is due, in large part, to the School’s success in fundraising.

“Most architecture schools have had to cut budgets in recent years,” Wittig said. “Not us.”

Gifts from alumni have allowed the School to update studios, restore the woodshop and establish scholarships — notably for the study abroad programs the school says are integral to their curriculum.

That curriculum has been strengthened, providing more support for what Wittig calls “hands-on themes” of community engagement, co-op, technology use and study abroad.

“We needed to strengthen the program and focus on the core parts of our identity,” he said.

Though Wittig is stepping down as dean, he will not be going far — he will stay on faculty of the SOA.

“I believe the school is in a good place for the next dean, whoever it may be, to build on,” he added.

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