Background Image Alternative Text: Longtime Mississippi State University School of Architecture Director and F.L. Crane Professor Michael Berk stands (left) with School of Architecture Advisory Board Chair Richard McNeel at a retirement reception in Berk's honor in May 2019
Background Image Alternative Text: Longtime Mississippi State University School of Architecture Director and F.L. Crane Professor Michael Berk stands (left) with School of Architecture Advisory Board Chair Richard McNeel at a retirement reception in Berk's honor in May 2019

Longtime School of Architecture director to retire

School of Architecture Associate Director Jassen Callender will step into the role of interim director effective July 1.

Mississippi State University School of Architecture Director and F.L. Crane Professor Michael Berk (mug)Mississippi State’s School of Architecture Director Michael A. Berk, AIA, will retire at the end of June.

Berk has been with the School of Architecture for the last 29 years, starting as an assistant professor and ultimately receiving the F.L. Crane Endowed Professorship in 2005; he has served as the director for the past 10 years.

Under Berk’s guidance, in 1992, the school was the first professional architecture program to require its students to purchase laptop computers for use in the design studios, changing the paradigm of architectural education. This ‘Digital Nomads’ initiative brought significant attention to the university and was cited in the seminal Carnegie Foundation ‘Boyer Report’ as a model for instruction.

He is also responsible for more than $7 million in funded research at MSU and for the state of Mississippi. His most recent project (with USDA, HUD, DOE and FEMA funding) involved the design and manufacture of an ecologically-minded, low-cost GreenMobile® home unit for the Southeast and the Delta regions. In 2006, the GreenMobile® was awarded $5.8 million dollars by FEMA in the Alternative Housing Pilot Program (AHHP) for disaster-relief housing on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. This same project received first place in the 2007 US EPA and American Institute of Architects-sponsored Life Cycle Building Challenge Competition in the Professional: Unbuilt category.

Berk has taught and researched in the areas of digital media and information design as well as factory-built housing (GreenMobile®). He is considered by many to be a leading expert in the area of ecological design and is often invited nationally to lecture on this topic. Recent invitations include: University of Florida SoA Lecture Series, the U.S. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Hearst Lecture Series @ Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Auburn University’s Rural Studio Lecture Series, Texas A+M College of Architecture, and the National Building Museum in the U.S. Dept. of Energy-sponsored “Building in the 21st Century” Lecture Series in Washington,  D.C.

The professor has also received numerous awards for his teaching and research at MSU. At the national level, in 2006, Berk’s Passive Building Systems course on ecological design received special recognition in the American Institute of Architects’ Eco-Literacy in Education Program. In the same year, he received both of the school’s faculty awards for his teaching and research: the Allen & Hoshall Award (his third time) and the Faculty Book Award (his second time). In 2002, he received the MSU School of Architecture Researcher of the Year award, and in 2014, he was honored with the University of Florida’s ‘Distinguished Architecture Alumni Award.’

Berk is also registered architect in California and Florida and had an extensive practice as a design partner and project architect prior to his return to the academy in 1990.

“I am a bit in awe of the position into which I step,” said Jassen Callender, who has served for the past year as associate director under Berk and has led the school’s Fifth-Year Program since 2008. “Michael leaves a legacy at the School of Architecture unsurpassed by his predecessors. As director, Michael led the program out of a transitional period to its most successful accreditation and a national Top 25 ranking while founding the school's monograph series, BARNworks. These and numerous other accomplishments have positioned the program for unheralded success in the future.” 

See photos from Berk's May reception in Jackson.