Photo from USC NewsThe USC School of Architecture’s undergraduate and graduate programs rose up in the rankings this year based on a national survey of architecture schools by DesignIntelligence. The undergraduate program jumped from 11 to 5 in the rankings, while the graduate program was ranked ninth, despite not being in the top 20 list last year.According to David Gilmore, CEO of DesignIntelligence, significant jumps in rank are often tied to national perception of the program, faculty prestige and program engagement with its alumni. However, Gilmore said USC’s jump was unique this year.“We see little change in the rankings from last year at the undergraduate level,” Gilmore said in an interview with Architectural Record. “Except for the University of Southern California, there are no new players in the top 10 this year.” Douglas Noble, who directs USC’s Master of Building Science program, agreed that improving the perception of the programs was a key contributor.“The biggest thing [the school] did was simply letting people know [our strengths],” Noble said. “If [the school is] good, but [it] does not let others know what you are doing, the program will suffer in the rankings.” Noble cited the school’s specialized degree programs, design theory group, global leadership performance and extensive research as part of the efforts that contributed to outside recognition. In addition to the overall program rankings, USC also ranked in the top 5 among DesignIntelligence’s listed skill sets, which include research, design, sustainability and construction knowledge.“We have great strengths in sustainability and the building sciences,” Noble said.USC’s architecture program boasted alumni like Jon Jerde, who designed the Universal CityWalk, and Frank Gehry, who developed the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Additionally, the school lists two Pritzker Prize laureates among its graduates. Brian Rohrlick, a senior majoring architecture, said the program excels in preparing students for their careers.“I appreciate how open-ended and flexible the program is in letting students explore and invest in their own creative styles and visions,” Rohrlick said. “Networking and job opportunities are as fun and accessible as they come, with studio instructors having their own respective practices and other architects from around L.A. sitting in on reviews.”Noble also said that USC offers students unique opportunities because of its culture and location.“I am able to take advantage of the Trojan Family network on a daily basis to get professional architects to come to our school, while being located in Los Angeles provides our students with a dynamic architecture environment to play in,” Noble said.Sofia Borges and R. Scott Mitchell, both professors of architecture, exemplified this sentiment last June by leading a group of students to build a small shelter out of scrap materials. Their goal is to mass-produce these units in order to tackle the housing crisis in Los Angeles, where nearly 58,000 people are homeless.In order to nurture a wide spectrum of interests, from social impact to set design, Noble said that diversifying the school’s faculty and professional connections has been a priority.“Our school has many types of faculty, from those who are professional architects to those who do pure research,” Noble said. “We increased our efforts to get all of these types more recognition.”In addition, the USC School of Architecture appointed a new dean this year, Milton S.F. Curry, who has been noted for his expertise on race, architecture and urbanism that engages cultural theory and humanities research.“I am overwhelmingly positive about the future [Dean Curry] can bring us,” Noble said.