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Innovation Rewarded with McDowell Award

Dr. Barbara Brown Wilson and Matthew Fajkus, two Architecture professors, received the Cale McDowell Award for Innovation for their collaboration in creating the Signature Course “Skyscrapers and Polar Bears: Perspectives on Sustainable Design.” In the UGS 303 class, students are immersed in the past, present, and future of sustainable design with weekly guest lecturers, field trips, and research on local historical examples of sustainable design. The course focuses on the connection between design and behavior, on the scale of cities and regions down to the scale of a single room. (See the syllabus for more.) In the words of a student:

This course was radically different than any other course I’ve take at UT, and was one of those life-changing courses. Exposure to these subjects actually inspired me to change my major to geography with a focus in sustainability and now I am exploring a new found passion.

In the words of Dean Woodruff, “These two professors have invented exactly the sort of course we hoped to see when we designed the Signature Course program years ago.”

Professor Barbara Brown Wilson

Barbara Brown Wilson is currently an Assistant Professor of Community and Regional Planning and Sustainable Development in the School of Architecture at UT Austin. She is also the Director of the School’s Center for Sustainable Development. Brown Wilson holds a PhD in Community and Regional Planning and a masters in architectural history, and this urban historical perspective informs both her teaching and her research. Her current research includes an action-oriented research project extending the work of the Alley Flat Initiative to develop integrated codes for green, affordable infill development in Austin with Dr. Steven Moore, conducting project evaluation for the Texas Gulf Coast Recovery Rapid Housing Pilot Project, and working with the SEED Network to build an inclusive platform for socially-oriented green building assessment systems. (read more)

Professor Matthew Fajkus

Professor Fajkus, a Fellow of the Center for Sustainable Development, is director of the University of Texas School of Architecture’s state-of-the-art Thermal Lab, an interdisciplinary design tool that tests the thermal and light properties of full-scale facade mock-ups as part of a larger body of building envelope research. He is a co-principal investigator and has received grant funding for the Smart Building Initiative, an innovative program designed to perform energy analysis and maintain a direct user interface in Sutton Hall on the UT campus. In a collaborative effort with Associate Professor Ulrich Dangel, Assistant Professor Tamie Glass, as well as Associate Professor Atila Novoselac, Fajkus helped design the Pike Powers Home Research Lab, or “Living Lab,” constructed in Austin’s Mueller Development as part of the Pecan Street clean energy smart grid demonstration project.

Fajkus is a licensed architect in Texas, a member of the American Institute of Architects, a LEED Accredited Professional, and is the principal architect of Matt Fajkus Architecture, LLC, founded in 2010. The firm, informally known as MF Architecture, was selected as one of the top three emerging Austin architecture firms by the Austin Museum of Art, was awarded a Texas Society of ArchitectsStudio Award in 2011, and also received the Second Place Award (of 289 professional entries) in the Habitat for Humanity 20×20 Sustainable Prefab House International Design Competition in 2010. (read more)

Signature Courses

Every UT Austin students takes a UGS 302 or 303 class in his or her first year at the university. The courses serve as an introduction to the academic community, a way to explore new interests and broaden horizons. The Signature Course is an opportunity to engage in college-level thinking and learning. Every year, faculty design a variety of courses by matching student interests with faculty expertise from every college and school at the university. The result is a common intellectual experience for all first-year students.