Two College of Architecture educators named ‘Top 25 Most Admired’ in their field

Professor of landscape architecture and department head Stephanie Rolley has received multiple awards of recognition for her work. (Rowan Jones | Collegian Media Group)

Tim de Noble, dean of the College of Architecture, Planning and Design, and Stephanie Rolley, head of the department of landscape architecture and regional and community planning, have been ranked among the “Top 25 Most Admired Educators in Architecture, Interiors and Landscape Architecture” by DesignIntelligence for 2019.

Both de Noble and Rolley also received this distinction two years ago, making the Kansas State architecture program home to two multi-year award recipients.

Rolley said receiving the award was a surprise both times.

“It’s the most wonderful kind of recognition because I just did not see it coming at all,” Rolley said.

Rolley, who said she comes from a family of educators, attended K-State as an undergraduate student and has been teaching at the university since 1987, becoming a department head in 2009. She said her choice to come back to teach was largely a result of happenstance.

“I received a call asking if I’d be interested in coming up for a year,” Rolley said. “It has been a lot of years since that one-year gig.”

Between the time she graduated from K-State as an undergraduate student and the time she returned to Manhattan to teach, Rolley went to graduate school and worked at various architecture firms in the San Antonio, Dallas and Cambridge, Massachusetts areas.

“I started, very naively, thinking that I could continue to practice [while teaching],” Rolley said. “I was traveling a lot to maintain that work … then I realized I just needed to focus on what I was doing here.”

Rolley said she believes tremendous changes have been made in the College of Architecture, Planning and Design since she attended as an undergraduate student.

“When I was in school, I didn’t see much of the rest of the university,” Rolley said. “Now, students learn from the expertise all across campus and that is a huge change.”

The architecture program has collaborated with over 50 departments and disciplines on campus, “which is really important to the design and planning disciplines,” she said.

“One of the things that I’ve focused on for the last 15 years has been developing our students’ masters projects and reports,” Rolley said. “It’s a hallmark of our department that each of the students who has graduated in landscape architecture and planning … has had an independent project.”

Rolley became the department head of Landscape Architecture and Regional and Community Planning in 2009, the same year Tim de Noble was hired as dean of the College of Architecture, Planning and Design at K-State.

The two have worked closely together and seen the college grow and change over the last 10 years, Rolley said.

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Dean of the College of Architecture, Planning and Design Tim de Noble has been at Kansas State University since 2009. (Rowan Jones|Collegian Media Group)

de Noble said he appreciates Rolley’s recognition.

“She’s truly dedicated to her disciplines and to the craft of building her own department,” de Noble said. “She has advanced opportunities for students and faculty here.”

In her years of both teaching and serving as a department head at K-State, Rolley said her favorite moments are always either the beginning or the end of the school year. She said she loves to see the excitement of new architecture students coming in to select their studio desks and get settled at the beginning of the year as well as her masters students giving their reports and theses at the end.

“To see [students] stand up and defend their work and think about all of the things that they did while they were here that got them to that point, and to see where that’s pointing them in terms of their career, is really exciting,” she said. “That’s why we do this.”

Rolley said her years at K-State, both as a student and as an educator, have been an important aspect of her life.

“In a lot of ways, I think that K-State is still the same place that I came to school,” she said.

de Noble echoed Rolley’s surprise at receiving the distinction of one of the Top 25 Most Admired Educators; he said it was a complete surprise to him the first time he received the award two years ago. For 2019, he said winning the award was “more exciting” for him.

de Noble said it feels as though this time the award reflects the advancements made to K-State’s architecture program.

“In many ways, the recognition is in light of the fact that we’ve improved the learning, teaching and research environment for students, faculty and staff,” de Noble said. “In spite of all of the odds against us, we got that done. [The award] is more of a reflection of all of us than it is of me as an individual.”

Before accepting the deanship at K-State, de Noble practiced and taught both in the U.S. and abroad in Italy and Mexico City. He said his transition from teaching to deanship came with the choice to be a leader.

“As a designer, I’m always critical about the way things are done, and if you’re going to be critical, you need to put yourself in a position to make the changes,” de Noble said. “I see the college as a design project; not just the building itself, but how to bring the most potency out of the interrelationship of the parts of our college and the people within it.”

Even as dean of the College of Architecture, Planning and Design, de Noble is currently teaching in some structures classes alongside assistant professor Michael Grogan, a member of the K-State faculty since the fall 2017.

“K-State is positioned to be the model 21st century land-grant university,” he said.

de Noble started a program abroad in Orvieto, Italy, that has expanded across departments to what is now the “KSU in Italy” study abroad program.

“I have a deep investment and belief in international study,” de Noble said. “It’s a fantastic way to learn by putting yourself in worlds you don’t know so that you can better understand your own world and have empathy for others.”

Compared to teaching in the U.S., de Noble said the camaraderie between students and faculty abroad is even more poignant.

“Typically, a faculty member spends a minimum of twelve hours a week with students,” de Noble said. “Abroad you’re doing that as well as doing field study with students, eating with them and exploring the culture together. It’s about the cultural realm in addition to the educational realm.”

Since accepting the deanship in 2009, de Noble said his favorite moment at K-State was Oct. 13, 2017: the dedication ceremony for the new architecture facility in Seaton Hall. de Noble said walking into the new facility after the ceremony, there was a different aura about it even though he had already been in the building.

“I almost get weepy thinking about it,” he said. “You felt like you were a part of this kind of collective ‘a-ha’ moment.”

de Noble said what he felt, and still feels, regarding the advancements of the College of Architecture, Planning and Design is “absolute, unfettered joy.”