SIU architectural master’s degree graduate blazes a trail

Matthew T. Bundy

After earning his degree in civil engineering from Virginia Tech in 1994, Matthew T. Bundy always planned to return to graduate school to pursue architecture. An initiative started in fall 2018 by Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s School of Architecture made that possible.

“This program is tailored to working professionals,” he said. “It was a perfect fit and opportunity I have been waiting literally decades for.”

SIU’s Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) program allowed Bundy to work toward an architectural license while in school. By earning his Master of Architecture degree in December 2020, Bundy – according to the National Council of Architectural Registration Board (NCARB) – became the first IPAL student to graduate from an Illinois architectural school and the second to graduate from an online IPAL program in the nation. NCARB notes that since 2015, 28 National Architectural Accrediting Board-accredited programs at 23 universities nationwide have established an IPAL option.

“The IPAL program is an added strength for our already successful master’s program,” said Craig Anz, professor and architectural studies program director. “It provides a competitive edge for our program and further prepares our graduates for 21st century professional architectural practice.”

‘Passionate’ about architecture

A civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience, Bundy, who is from Abingdon, Virginia, has co-owned an architecture and engineering firm with his father, who is an architect, for the past 15 years. Starting the firm with his father allowed him to work more around architecture projects and continue his career, he said.

“I have been passionate about architecture and building design since early adulthood,” Bundy said. “I completed my degree in engineering with the intention of going to graduate school in architecture after a few years of work; however, once my career in engineering got going, it was difficult to leave to return to school and restart a new career.”

Bundy noted that SIU’s program didn’t require him to move and expedited the licensure process by several years. Many of the courses are directly applicable to professional practice as an architect, and by having exams that correlated with his coursework, the Architecture Review Exams (ARE) were more manageable, Bundy said.

“This was a great experience, and although it is a challenge, taking the ARE exams while enrolled in school both facilitates exam preparation and expedites licensure,” Bundy said.

Pandemic limited visits

As a part of the program, Bundy was supposed to spend four weekends in St. Louis and three weekends on campus in Carbondale. COVID-19 reduced the number of trips to St. Louis to three and to SIU Carbondale to a weekend.

The work sessions in St. Louis and SIU were intense, although the relationships that were growing from in-person contact with other students and faculty were limited by the pandemic.

“My one weekend in Carbondale was a great opportunity to see the school and to get to know the professors, and I regret not having more of them,” he said.

Rigorous program

Michael Brazley, an associate professor and IPAL coordinator in the School of Architecture, said there are about 20 students now in the program. SIU Carbondale offers the IPAL both on-campus and online. Students are able to choose options to complete the program from three curriculum tracks ranging from 15 to 39 months based on their prior degrees and professional experience.

“It is wonderful that Matt is the first student to graduate with such honors,” Brazley said. “He is a very intelligent and humble person.”

The IPAL program advantages include reduced time in earning an architectural license and less expense in melding education, work experience and exams with faculty mentors.

“The program is very rigorous,” Brazley said “Students are going to school, working full time and getting registration exams, all at the same time.”

Program exceeded expectations

Bundy said he wants to see the family’s firm continue to grow and eventually allow his father to retire. He received his architecture license in Tennessee in April and license in Virginia in early June. He credited the IPAL program for achieving those goals five months after graduation.

“Having worked in professional practice for 25 years,” he said, “I selected SIU’s program from other programs based on the high applicability of coursework to real-life practice, and my expectation were far surpassed in that respect.”

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