Benjie Nycum has been teaching alongside TEAL’s Tom Emodi in the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) Syllabus program since the beginning of 2015. Now in his second term teaching, he reflects on the joys of the program.
How did you get started in the Syllabus Program?
I love teaching, so when Tom asked if I would join on to help out I was pretty excited. First I attended as a guest during a few sessions in the winter. Then I joined on as an instructor in spring/summer.
What is the Syllabus Program?
For technical components of the program, students complete long-distance learning modules with Athabasca University. Design is taught in each region through studios like ours following a guideline for assignments. The graded work is submitted to the RAIC for final evaluation.
The following is copied from the RAIC website:
To practice as an Architect in Canada, a person must be a registered member of an Association of Architects in one of the Provinces. Applicants for Provincial Registration must first obtain certification of their academic qualifications from the Canadian Architectural Certification Board (CACB). The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) Syllabus curriculum has been prepared to comply with Academic Certification Criteria adopted by the CACB as its standard for granting certification.
The RAIC offers an accessible alternative through a direct, self-paced program of academic studies, design studios, and practical experience leading to the RAIC Diploma in Architecture – accepted in Canada as equivalent to a Professional University Degree in Architecture. Graduates from the Syllabus are entitled to use the designation “Dipl. Arch.” indicating that they have completed all requirements of the RAIC Syllabus Diploma.
What do you want people to know about the Syllabus Program?
What is amazing about the program is the offering of an alternative to the university path. It takes much longer than a conventional university degree (for most students, at least a decade), but it’s hard not to be excited about providing an alternative to the conventional way of doing things. Many people incur disruption in their lives that prevent the kind of 100% focus and dedication to a university architectural degree. If you can’t make yourself committed 24/7 to a university architectural degree program for 4 years (after already completing undergraduate studies), then you have no hope of making it through. But with Syllabus, it is self-paced. The deliverables are stretched out over a long period of time. So folks who have disruption their lives, still have a chance of becoming an architect.
What do you get out of teaching in the Syllabus Program?
It’s all volunteer and every activity of the design studio from coordination to grading to planning assignments and critiquing the work falls on the volunteer teachers. But it is very rewarding. I love teaching and am privileged to teach as an adjunct at the Dalhousie University Faculty of Architecture in Halifax. Syllabus adds another dimension to learning. I really enjoy working with Tom. Apart from being a very knowledgeable instructor who counts in his CV the title of Dean at the faculty of architecture, he is a constant affirmation of the profound values of humanity in architecture. He executes these values in every engagement with the students. It reminds me that architectural education does not have to be in a static box. It is fluid, dynamic, and more than just the content or the product. That is very exciting and something I get to export both to teaching at the university and in our practice at Nycum & Associates.
More importantly, the students are very inspiring. They are managing their lives and careers, yet still do the work of the program with rigour. The biggest challenge is to not give them any slack for this. We have to demand excellence in their work. The heat is on every week. Yet they still come passionate and prepared to present. It’s hard not to come away from that without a weekly feeling of inspiration and goodness. We meet on Thursdays so Wednesday nights feel like Christmas Eve.
What advice do you have for someone who might be considering the Syllabus Program?
Get started now!