Foundation Studies Upgraded as School Seeks Accreditation

Recent changes place LAU’s curriculum on a par with the best first-year design and architecture programs worldwide.

  • Foundation program students exhibit their creations.

The Foundation Studies program —a key multi-disciplinary year common to all SArD majors— has greatly benefitted from the school’s current drive to attain American accreditation in various disciplines.

The school is gearing up for several professional accreditations, including from the National Architectural Accrediting Board, the Council for Interior Design Accreditation, and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

“Accreditation ensures the school meets American quality standards and we have strived year on year to excel in our offerings to our students,” said Silia Abou Arbid, Associate Chair of the Fine Arts and Foundation Studies department.

The path toward accreditation usually starts with a a self-study and continues with a review by external scholars, whose assessment determines the school’s eligibility for accreditation board visits.

The Foundation program self-study, carried out by four SArD faculty members, reviewed every aspect of the program and recommended several curricular changes:

  • A new six-credit master design studio course merging 2D, 3D and 4D design was introduced.
  • Design Culture was expanded to include design history.
  • Introduction to Computer Graphics was revamped into a Digital Media course that includes animation and video editing.
  • A new Shop Techniques course, introducing students to 3D fabrication, was added.

“The changes are meant to ensure LAU’s program stays on a par with first-year programs worldwide and that it meets NAAB criteria,” Abou Arbid explained.

The school found particular value in the recommendations put forward by external evaluators. Kevin Mitchell of Sharjah University reviewed the body of student work in fall 2012, and Emma Hogart from Rhode Island School of Design came in to look at the spring 2014 design studios’ output.

“We learn not only from their review of our work but also from their own professional experience,” said Abou Arbid.

The external evaluations were spearheaded by Dean Elie Haddad. Together with the long-term reviews of faculty committees, these initiatives are enabling the school to excel in its offerings, both in terms of course content and facilities.

“The Byblos campus has very good facilities, and the students of the Beirut campus will soon benefit from more —and better— space at the new premises,” said Abou Arbid, referring to the Gezairi building in Beirut, which is being refurbished to house the school.

“We have already noticed an improvement in the program since introducing some of our proposed changes at the beginning of this year. Critiques offered during both semesters by visiting educators, designers and artists, including some LAU graduates, were very promising,” said Abou Arbid.

Ultimately, accreditation ensures the ongoing reevaluation of courses, so that quality standards are continuously met.

“Our aim is to constantly enhance the students’ experience of this year-long immersion in art and design fundamentals,” Abou Arbid said.