MSU School of Architecture celebrates 50-year milestone, first event this week

Contact: Christie McNeal

School of Architecture anniversary events graphic

STARKVILLE, Miss.—The School of Architecture at Mississippi State University is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with a series of events for students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends.

Part of the College of Architecture, Art and Design, the School of Architecture will mark its milestone anniversary with events including:

—Sept. 9, Football Tailgate, MSU vs. Arizona

—Oct. 20 through spring 2024 – Alumni Exhibition

—Oct. 20-22, 50th Anniversary Chautauqua

—Spring, TBD, Spring Baseball Tailgate

—April 5-7, 2024, Closing Weekend including alumni design awards and the Beaux Arts Ball

For the full schedule and more details, visit

Established in 1973 by the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, the first class of 16 students graduated from the MSU School of Architecture in May 1978. More than 1,600 students have since earned their Bachelor of Architecture degree from the school, with the most recent class of 49 graduates this past May. Current enrollment stands at 257.

Professor and Director Emeritus Michael Berk, who led the school from 2009-2019, is proud of the impact the school has made on the state.

“Having been a part of this prestigious program for many years, it is humbling to know that our school is solely responsible for educating the vast majority of the licensed architects currently practicing in Mississippi and also knowing that many others have major roles in some of the best national and international firms,” Berk said.

The first architecture students started their education in a renovated dormitory and moved into the school’s current building—Giles Hall—in 1977. The older part of the building, known as “the Barn,” was originally designed as a livestock-judging pavilion and later was used as a motor pool. An award-winning addition to the building, designed by architect Jim Eley, was completed and dedicated in 1983. Giles Hall now houses the Bob and Kathy Luke Library, the Charlotte and Richard McNeel Gallery, the Robert and Freda Harrison Auditorium, the Fazio Jury Room, the Fred Carl Jr. Small Town Center, as well as school’s faculty and staff and the college dean’s office.

Unique to programs at the time, the school established a satellite campus in Jackson from the beginning for students to finish their final two semesters of the five-year professional degree.

“The founders insisted on this both to expose students to the most urban environment Mississippi has to offer and to give them opportunities to interact with the largest possible selection of the state’s practitioners,” said Professor and Director of the Jackson Center Jassen Callender, a 1994 class alumnus.  

The fifth-year program first was housed in the state-run Research and Development Center off Ridgewood Road in the capital city until the mid-1990s, moving to the Elks Lodge and then the Dickies Building. The program found its permanent home in a former Kress store in downtown Jackson thanks to a generous gift to the university by Stuart C. Irby Jr. Renamed the Jackson Center in 2004, the award-winning, three-story facility—designed by architect and 1980 MSU alumnus Chuck Barlow—now houses a branch architecture library, two galleries, the Jackson Community Design Center, or JCDC, two classrooms, two shops, faculty and staff offices, and an entire floor of studio space reserved for fifth-year students.

“Building on the legacies of former fifth-year Directors and Professors Bennett, Craycroft, Risher, Decker and Buege, the Jackson Center has evolved into an urban laboratory where students can begin to understand the unique challenges faced by America’s mid-size cities and contemplate solutions,” said Callender.

Current Director and  F.L. Crane Professor Karen Spence, who took on this role in 2021, said the school is continuing to build on its legacy of quality and strength of its curriculum.

“Now and in the future, we’re continuing to focus on teaching good design that is fueled by attending to issues of equity and resiliency, serving the needs of the state and creating future professionals who will be change agents in their communities,” Spence said.

The MSU School of Architecture offers the only National Architecture Accrediting Board professional architecture degree in Mississippi. Read more about the school’s history at

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