Patricia Oliver Named UH Dean of Architecture

Patricia Belton Oliver, who served from 2001-2008 as senior vice president of educational planning and architecture at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., has been named dean of the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture at the University of Houston.

The appointment, effective Jan. 20, was announced by John Antel, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at UH.

Oliver succeeds Joseph Mashburn, who 14 months ago announced plans to step down from the post he has held since 1998, saying he wanted to leave while "at the top of my game." He will remain connected to the college in a teaching capacity.

"Patricia Oliver will bring to the College of Architecture exceptional educational experience, vision, leadership and administrative skills," Antel said. "She is an award-winning teacher with a remarkable record of achievement, particularly in environmental design. All of these attributes will serve the University of Houston well as we continue to pursue Tier One status.

"We also owe a great deal of gratitude and thanks," Antel said, "to Joe Mashburn, who served with distinction over the past decade and provided leadership enabling tremendous growth and diversity in the college, as well as furthering our excellence in sustainable design and advanced training in industrial design."

In 2007, Hispanic Outlook on Higher Education Magazine ranked the college number one among architecture programs in the country for awarding degrees to Hispanic students. One of Mashburn's biggest achievements was the creation of the Burdette Keeland Jr. Design Exploration Center, a place where students make their ideas work. Last year, students in the Graduate Design/Build Studio used it to create an award-winning outdoor stage for an elementary school.

Oliver chaired the 2009 American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Convention in San Francisco, is chair of the 2009 AIA National Education Committee and is a director on the National Architectural Accrediting Board.

While at the Art Center College of Design, she created the environmental design department to bridge the area between architecture and product design. As its first chair, she brought architecture and related disciplines to one of the world's most prestigious colleges of art and design. She developed a unique curriculum that weaves together architecture, interior architecture, environmental graphics, furniture design and experience design to provide students with a rich diversity of experience.

"Patricia exceeded all expectations by building a strong, respected department founded on rigorous academic and artistic foundations," said Barton Choy, adjunct professor at the Art Center College of Design. "Through her vision, leadership and administrative skills, the department more than doubled in size and contributed significantly to Art Center's outstanding global reputation."

Under her mentorship, Oliver's students won more than 30 awards and were invited to exhibit their work in Milan, Paris, New York, Los Angeles and Cologne. She established the Institute for Community Development to collaborate with low-cost housing organizations on award-winning projects such as the design of apartments for emancipated youth (who graduate from foster care at age 18). She also worked on the expansion of the Art Center's Hillside Campus and the formation of a new South Campus, collaborating with notable architects such as Frank Gehry, Hodgetts and Fung, and Daly Genik.

As acting dean (1988) of the California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly), Oliver organized and led the first California State University System-sponsored competition for a new classroom/laboratory/administration building, establishing a standard for campus-administered competitions that was adopted by several other institutions. As associate dean (1987-1992) at Cal Poly Pomona, Oliver founded the Ontario Community Center for Urban Research, the university's first interdisciplinary, public/private design research center. She began her academic career in 1981as an assistant professor at Cal Poly.

Oliver received a master of architecture I degree in 1977 from the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), earning the Dean's Award for best thesis and for best overall student. She received a bachelor of arts degree, independent studies, with honors from UCLA in 1974.