The Public Design Certificate program was initiated in the fall of 2010 aiming to more effectively bridge the gap between school and practice by providing simultaneous professional experience and academic work in Public Interest Design. Graduates of architecture, landscape architecture and planning programs from around the country apply to the certificate program. During their internship in the Design Studio the Public Design Interns are paid to work for three-quarters of their time on community-based projects along with the professional staff in the Design Studio. During the other one-quarter of their time they complete eighteen credits of Public Design courses. At the completion of the program the interns receive a certificate in Public Design from Mississippi State University's College of Architecture, Art + Design. The program is designed for a year, but is flexible to enable interns to increase their time in the Design Studio.
A growing number of design graduates seek an alternative place to work and learn during the internship portion of their professional training. These emerging professionals are motivated by the realization that designers should extend the problem-solving benefits of the design professions and increase their ability to address complex social and environmental concerns. The interns in the Public Design Certificate Program work on real-world projects while learning from day-to-day interaction with staff, residents and community partners. Coursework and engagement with outside practitioners expose interns to the methods of public design and other models of professional practice. Thus the Public Design program enriches the internship period, builds upon architectural education, and fosters more effective professionals.
Practice skills cannot be acquired in school. They can be discussed and they can be modeled, but they are best developed by working in a practice environment with the natural pressures that comes from projects that get built. Practice values are even more difficult to get from school. They are best developed by discussing the consequences of working with other people on projects for other people in a practice environment. At the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, the diversity and complexity of work, the level of funding, and focus on community collaboration creates a context for teaching both practice skills and practice values. The Public Design Certificate Program accentuates the skill-building character of the Design Studio, emphasizing the development of professional skills in the context of a socially-oriented practice environment.