Matt Powers named director of School of Design at Virginia Tech
Alumnus Matt Powers returns to Virginia Tech as the first director of the new School of Design in the College of Architecture, Arts, and Design. Powers, who earned two degrees from Virginia Tech, a master’s in landscape architecture and doctorate in environmental planning and design, begins his new role on June 1.
Powers will lead the new School of Design after the 2022 reorganization of the College of Architecture, Arts, and Design created four schools that reside under the college’s mantle. He’ll be responsible for setting the vision for the School of Design and its three programs: industrial design, interior design, and landscape architecture.
“When Matt made the decision to pursue a career in higher education, it was unquestionably a win for students and scholarship, and his return to Virginia Tech as our director of the School of Design benefits the entire college,” said Rosemary Blieszner, interim dean and Alumni Distinguished Professor. “His approach to teaching, collaboration, and leadership will have a lasting influence on the School of Design, especially during these formative years.”
From Milton, West Virginia, Powers has spent the last 12 years at Clemson University as an associate professor in the School of Architecture. Since 2017, he has served as the director of Clemson’s Landscape Architecture and Undergraduate Programs as the chief academic administrator, responsible for all activities related to the undergraduate degree programs including academic advising, curricula, and collaboration on interdisciplinary initiatives.
Powers’ progressive leadership roles in Clemson’s landscape architecture program included a year as the interim director of the Ph.D. program in planning, design, and the built environment and two years as associate department chair. For four years, he was the coordinator of the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture program, with one year as the director of landscape architecture.
In 2018, Powers was selected to participate in Clemson University’s President’s Leadership Institute. Appointed as a sustainability fellow under the direction of Clemson’s executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, Powers recently completed his third and final term.
“Growing up, I was involved in school, community, and sports activities, made possible for me by my family and many teachers and coaches,” Powers said. “Each of these individuals was a role model for me, and I felt called to follow in their footsteps. At each step of my career, a new set of people helped support me and my goals. Over the last 20 years, I’ve had the privilege of helping others achieve their dreams.”
Powers accepted a position as a teaching assistant in his final year as an undergraduate at West Virginia University, exposing him to a new academic experience. He earned his Bachelor of Science in landscape architecture in 1996, and his next career step brought him to a Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, landscape architecture firm, where he worked side by side with colleagues and partners.
After two years in professional practice, Powers enrolled in the Master of Landscape Architecture program at Virginia Tech to pursue his goal of becoming a professor. His experiences included serving as a graduate teaching assistant and project manager and designer with Virginia Tech’s Community Design Assistance Center. After receiving his master’s in 2000, Powers remained in Blacksburg as an instructor in the landscape architecture program.
In 2003, Powers accepted a tenure-track position as an assistant professor at Florida A&M University contributing to the launch of the Master of Landscape Architecture program there. By 2006, the program received initial accreditation, and three years later, Florida A&M was the leading producer of Black, Hispanic, and Latino landscape architects.
An advisor and mentor for students, Powers and his students have won numerous awards for innovative design and outstanding research. At both Florida A&M and Clemson, in addition to his responsibilities as a faculty member for both undergraduate and graduate programs, he served on several university committees, councils, and task forces. He has authored or co-authored a variety of publications, articles, reports, and posters, as well as a book, “Self-Regulated Design Learning: A Foundation and Framework for Teaching and Learning Design.” Powers also has contributed to international and national conferences as a keynote speaker and panelist.
Powers earned his Ph.D. in environmental design and planning from Virginia Tech in 2006 with his dissertation focused on the process of self-regulated learning as an important influence on design learning. His research examined self-regulated learning in design studios and student interviews helped shed light on how students set goals, deploy their plans, learn, and engage.
Powers has been a strong advocate for the profession of landscape architecture and the American Society of Landscape Architecture. While at Clemson, he founded the Summer Scholars: Designing the Built Environment, introducing both landscape architecture and architecture to high school students through high school summer camps. Powers also has donated his time and efforts to volunteer projects at the local, regional, national, and international levels.
The College of Architecture, Arts, and Design, with more than 1,700 students and 200 faculty and staff members, encompasses the School of Architecture, School of Design, School of Performing Arts, and School of Visual Arts with 12 undergraduate majors, five master’s degrees, a doctoral degree, and a graduate certificate program.