A Look At Woodbury University

Words: Christopher Rodermond

Words: Chris Rodermond

Words: Chris Rodermond
Photo: TommasoT

Founded in 1884 as Woodbury’s Business College, Woodbury University is the second oldest institution of higher learning on the West Coast of the United States. Today, the school serves several thousand learners with the following mission statement in mind: “ Woodbury University transforms students into innovative professionals who will contribute responsibly to the global community. We achieve academic excellence by focusing on purposeful student engagement, establishing external partnerships, and ensuring that all our processes, services, and environment enrich the student experience.”

The university is a private, non-profit institution with two campuses in Southern California: a primary campus in Burbank and a smaller campus in downtown San Diego. The school’s Vision statement is “Woodbury University cultivates a personal, interactive learning environment that focuses on innovative, practice-based professional and liberal arts education. We add distinct value with our focus on faculty-student interaction and support for student development and achievement. We focus on our Core Values and Strategic Principles to enable the success of our students, employers who hire our graduates, and the community at large.” The New York Times ranks Woodbury 10 among 161 higher education institutions in California on upward student mobility.

The school's core values are Excellence, Ethics, Aspiration, and Community, and the school’s strategic principles are Civic Engagement, Entrepreneurship, Design Thinking, and Transdisciplinarity. 

Woodbury University has five majors which consistently rank within the top programs in the country. For example, in 2018 DesignIntelligence ranked Woodbury’s undergraduate Architecture program in the top 20 in the nation. It is also highly regarded for its Animation, Graphic Design, and Interior Architecture programs. The main campus is a 22-acre site of a former convent, known for its beauty and safety. The campus, because of its beauty and proximity to Hollywood, make it an often-used filming location for television and motion pictures.  

The president of the school, Dr. David Steele-Figeuredo, wrote in a 2017 article published at Huffpost.com that, “At Woodbury University, we cater to first-generation students who were reared in modest family circumstances. While our gross tuition is $38,436, more than 75 percent of our students receive some kind of financial aid, with the average student financial aid package totaling $26,824 in 2016-2017. In fact, for California residents, approved for a Cal Grant with an expected family contribution of zero, the net tuition is only $4,432 per year for a freshman student with a GPA of 3.5+.”

Woodbury offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Architecture, which they refer to as BArch. The five-year, NAAB accredited program consists of a 160-course hour curriculum with 99 hours of architectural courses, 49 are part of general education, and 12 are unrestricted electives. Interestingly, a review of the student’s portfolio is required to advance from the third-year studio to the upper-division studio. There is also a 160 work experience requirement.  According to the school’s website, “Woodbury’s Bachelor of Architecture program is among the first 14 programs nationwide to have been accepted for participation in the National Council of Architectural Registration Board’s Integrated Path to Architectural Licensure (IPAL) initiative.”

Generally speaking, the undergraduate program is divided into three phases. The first phase (year one and two) is “Ground Work”, the second phase is “Field Work”, and the last year is called “Woodbury University wants to equip students, faculty, and staff with theoretical and practical knowledge that addresses sustainability issues in their disciplines, careers, community relationships, and daily lives. Many changes within the environment have critically affected our way of life. Our planet has become stressed from water shortages to pollution and climate change, yet our relationship to our surroundings is detached. Acknowledging these environmental, social, and economic issues, Woodbury’s goal is to create and nurture sustainable campus life. At Woodbury, sustainability is regarded as a subject of study and is implemented in every institution sector. Woodbury encourages continued learning about sustainability through coursework, research, and the experiences of life on campus. Sustainable Woodbury prompts our community to explore our future, current status, and past and challenges us to examine our natural and built environments, campus life, curriculum, co-curricular learning opportunities, and stewardship of resources in the spirit of shared and just decision making.

"Frame Work”.  


In addition to Bachelor of Architecture, other degrees the school awards include Master of Architecture, Master of Science in Architecture, Master of Science in Architecture in Real Estate Development, Master of Interior Design, and Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design, all of which have recently been designated as STEM degrees by the WASC and the Department of Homeland Security’s Student Exchange Visitor program. The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Architecture program ranks 12 nationwide and 4 in the west in the DesignIntelligence survey of undergraduate programs in the United States.

The school takes sustainability seriously, as can be seen from their statement regarding sustainability: “Woodbury University wants to equip students, faculty, and staff with theoretical and practical knowledge that addresses sustainability issues in their disciplines, careers, community relationships, and daily lives. Many changes within the environment have critically affected our way of life. Our planet has become stressed from water shortages to pollution and climate change, yet our relationship to our surroundings is detached. Acknowledging these environmental, social, and economic issues, Woodbury’s goal is to create and nurture sustainable campus life. At Woodbury, sustainability is regarded as a subject of study and is implemented in every institution sector. Woodbury encourages continued learning about sustainability through coursework, research, and the experiences of life on campus. Sustainable Woodbury prompts our community to explore our future, current status, and past and challenges us to examine our natural and built environments, campus life, curriculum, co-curricular learning opportunities, and stewardship of resources in the spirit of shared and just decision making.”

The Masters in Architecture program is a three-year degree program that has four streams of coursework. The Criticism track exposes students to the history of architecture and the theories which shape discourse on the subject. The Visualization branch “introduces students to methods of architectural analysis, production, and representation using inventive techniques and emerging technology”. The building track is about the practical and logistics of fabrication and construction dealing in materials, environmental, and structural concerns. Finally, the  studio track “integrates the criticism, visualization, and building into design proposals that demonstrate the power of architecture.”

The director of the program, Ewan Branda, states “More than ever, architecture needs to be understood as part of an ever-expanding set of aesthetic, social, and technical systems. Architecture today engages the world with a renewed agency prompted by changes to technology, society, and to its own disciplinary norms, while at the same time field outside architecture continue to borrow its metaphors and techniques as a way of advancing their own agendas.”


The Master of Science in Architecture (MSArch) program is a one-year program designed for recent graduates or early to mid-career professionals who want to specialize in a certain area of expertise. 

The Woodbury School of Architecture Design Justice Action plan was created to “guarantee access, opportunity, and advancement for all students, faculty, and staff in every stage of Woodbury education and career development, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of underrepresented groups. In line with the University’s mission of education for all people and the School’s mission of design in service to the pressing issues of our time, the Design Justice Action Plan provides tools to help our students become innovative leaders with a deep commitment to social justice.” Current initiatives include scholarships and diversity training just to name a few.

Part of the benefit of the Architecture program at Woodbury is access to their Making Complex, which includes a digital fabrications lab, woodshop, metal shop, materials lab, robotics lab, lighting lab as well as a VR & AR Studio. There is also a woodshop, metal shop, and digital fabrications laboratory at the San Diego conference. 

The Wedge Gallery, located on the Woodbury University campus, is a venue for “educators, students, designers, architects, and artists to present a critical body of work or project. The gallery space presents multiple shows per semester. Exhibits are typically open while classes are in session, during the Fall and Spring semesters.” The gallery can be found online at wedgegallery.woodbury.edu.

The Wuho Gallery, according to their website at wuho.architecture.woodbury.edu, is “Located on the iconic Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame, the Woodbury University Hollywood Outpost (WUHO) invites a diverse audience to a vital and celebratory place for learning about architecture and interior architecture. Woodbury University has occupied this 7500 square foot storefront and studio space since 1995.  Exhibitions are free and open to the public.” The Mission of the gallery is providing “a forum for the demystification of the disciplines of architecture. This porous venue invites visitors to learn about the built environment, and supports public programming for the dissemination of architectural knowledge.” There are boundless opportunities for the student to engage with the broader community while learning their craft. 

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