The final review process at University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning builds momentum over a week and a half, culminating with thesis presentations at the Liberty Lofts in downtown Ann Arbor, Mich. Undergraduate students kick off the school’s series of year-end presentations, followed by the graduate students, and finally the thesis. But for a handful of undergraduates, the work isn't over yet.

In their final semester, all undergraduates are considered part of The Wallenberg Studios. From these graduating students, about a dozen are selected from the school-wide exhibition to work on their projects for another week. A juried review just before graduation determines the winners of several Wallenberg travel scholarships. Both the studios and the scholarships are named in honor of University of Michigan alumnus Raoul Wallenberg, whose humanitarian efforts during World War II serve as the guiding ideal for the studios. Studio coordinator and associate professor Perry Kulper chose Occupation(s) as this year's theme, especially as they challenge ownership of the spaces in which they occur.

Thesis projects, meanwhile, have shifted over the last few years from being individual explorations to more group-focused work. Architecture chair John McMorrough explains: “At the beginning of the year, each of the faculty present a research project, and that can vary from geopolitical investigations of the tundra in Canada to material fabrications, or formal concerns, or sustainability projects.” Students then select their faculty advisors based upon their research ambitions. These broader issues are a key ingredient to the school’s thinking, says Taubman College dean Monica Ponce de Leon. “We are interested in the students in our school continuing to raise significant questions, to speculate, and to anticipate different modes of thinking.”

One looming question would be that of the future of neighboring Detroit. With the city's struggling economy, and its subsequent depopulation, the city seems primed for exploration, and researchers at the nearby University of Michigan have charged themselves with the task. Professors at the University of Michigan are encouraged to pursue research grants available through two programs, Research Through Making and Research on the City. As McMorrough puts it, “Detroit is always a factor in the school, because it’s so prominent in the public imagination.” Ponce de Leon adds that thesis students have been “moving away from self-expression, so that their work has to put itself into a larger conversation with other ideas that are happening in the discipline at large, so it becomes a springboard for them to go out into the world.”

University of Michigan's Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning by the numbers:

Undergraduates (2011-2012)

Graduates (2011-2012)

Degree Conferred: B.S. in Architecture Degree Conferred: M.Arch
Resident Tuition: $7,023

Resident Tuition: $11,997

Non-Resident Tuition: $20,121 Non-Resident Tuition: $17,827
77% of undergraduate students receive financial aid 90% of graduate students receive financial aid