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Jan. 20, 2011 Volume 32, No. 16

MU design professor is among most admired educators


Schwarz: “I see my role as a coach rather than an authority.”

Benyamin Schwarz began his career designing buildings. Now he’s “building” students.

Schwarz, a professor in the Department of Architectural Studies in the College of Human Environmental Sciences at the University of Missouri, was named one of the “Top 25 Professors and Education Leaders in the U.S.” by DesignIntelligence magazine. The distinction is given to educators and education administrators who display excellence in design education leadership.

DesignIntelligence selected the “2011 class of education role models” from public and private schools from across the country, including faculty in the Ivy League and the Big 12. The magazine’s staff determined the honorees with extensive input from design professionals, academic department heads and students.

“I am honored to be in the company of so many remarkable people from distinguished universities around the country,” Schwarz said. “I think it is a special recognition that happens rarely in the life of teachers, and I am thankful for being chosen for this award.”

Schwarz’s research focuses on the field of environmental gerontology, the study of the social psychological and biological aspects of aging. He is also editor-in-chief of the Journal of Housing for the Elderly, which serves professionals who create residential environments for the elderly through architecture and housing, urban planning, and public policy.

Jacqueline McDermott-Kelty, an interior design student, said Schwarz was an outstanding mentor and friend who always willing to listen and offer advice.

“One of Dr. Schwarz’s strongest qualities, as both a human being and teacher, is his ability to understand and teach his students on a personal level, even in a class of more than

100 students. The passion that he has for his work is inspiring and encourages his students to push themselves to a higher standard.”

In his studio classes, Schwarz helps his students develop their own voices in their designs. Schwarz challenges his students to learn by doing and develop solutions for themselves. Schwarz calls this process an “intellectual exchange.” He says this action helps students solve problems at hand and gravitate toward philosophy, poetry and precedence in architecture.

“I see my role as a coach rather than an authority on anything,” Schwarz said. “I love the interaction with young people who are eager to learn and the intellectual stimulus that comes with this interaction.”

DesignIntelligence is a bimonthly report of the Design Futures Council, an interdisciplinary network of design, product and construction leaders that advances innovation and shapes the future of the industry and environment.