Keynote at NDSU Explore Undergraduate Research Symposium

Honored to give the keynote talk “An Inconvenient Education for an Uncertain Future” at North Dakota State University’s NDSU Explore undergraduate research symposium on November 1, 2017.

The social, demographic, economic, technological and existential context for higher education has changed significantly in the last 50 years. Old paradigms of undergraduate education rooted in the notions of stable career paths in a predictable world are giving way to new paradigms geared for an uncertain future. Daas will detail select organizational and educational models of experiential/design pedagogy and research that engage undergraduate students in knowledge creation, entrepreneurship and leadership aimed at developing self-actualized individuals who can innovate under conditions of uncertainty.


Towards A Robotic Architecture: Book Cover & Posters


I am thrilled to share with you the cover design and a poster celebrating the pioneering contributors to the forthcoming book Towards A Robotic Architecture that I have co-edited with Andrew John Wit. We were fortunate to have collaborated with graphic designer, Professor Nagesh Shinde to produce an absolutely stunning, provocative, poetic book that is a visual and tactile delight!

In this book, we attempt to show not only the terrestrial impact of architectural robotics, but also the interplanetary impact it is bound to have. Currently there is no one book in the field that provides a comprehensive overview of architectural robotics, a void this book intends to fill. With these intentions and motivations in mind, we have organized the contents into four sections that follow four distinct themes: Framing Architectural Robotics, Robotectonics, Robotic Architectures and Robotic Futures.

The book has been listed on all major book seller sites for pre-orders. Stay tuned for more announcements and posters in the coming weeks leading up to the release of the book in early spring 2018!

TARA POSTER 11i4CoverPhotoCOVER AUG 17 spread

Global Impact visits to China, India & South Korea

Six universities in five cities in China and South Korea have established productive relationships and potential joint degree programs.

Tongji University, Shanghai; Nanjing Technological University, Nanjing; South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou; Chang’an University, Xi’an; Chung Ang University, Seoul; and Incheon National University, Incheon are vibrant places enthusiastic about pursuing academic collaborations.

I have had the pleasure of being a commencement speaker at Nanjing Technological University, and delivering a talk in Guangzhou.

I have also enjoyed visiting Yushan village near Xi’an, where architect Ma Quingyun and the American Academy of China have undertaken village development work where KU could participate.

In India we are exploring two partnerships: Mysore University and the School of Planning and Architecture in Vijayawada

Here are some snippets from my visits:

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Review of “Leading with Aesthetics” in Planning for Higher Ed (journal)

Harper, D. J. (2017). Leading with aesthetics: The transformational leadership of charles M. vest at MIT. Planning for Higher Education, 45(2) Jan/Mar 2017, 118-119. Retrieved from

Leading with Aesthetics The Transformational Leadership of Charles M. Vest at MIT by Mahesh Daas Lexington Books 2015 171 pages Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4985-0249-8

IN AN ERA OF DRASTICALLY SHIFTING PARADIGMS for institutions of postsecondary education, Mahesh Daas offers a novel approach to leadership: leading with aesthetics. At once both a text on leadership theory and a quasi-presidential biography, this book redefines the traditional understanding of aesthetics from a philosophical appreciation of beauty to an integral component of institutional reform, campus planning, and optimistic thinking. A narrative highlighting the second-longest-serving president of MIT, Charles M. Vest, Leading with Aesthetics offers insight into Vest’s ability to push beyond transactional leadership (Birnbaum 1992) into the realm of transformational leadership. Sprinkling his work with a collection of quotes from those who worked closely with Vest as well as Vest himself, Daas helps the reader track the 14-year presidency that changed not only the visuals of the MIT campus but also the spirit and character of a community.

Tempting the reader with a cover that features the controversial architecture of Frank Gehry, this work begins with a quick review of leadership theory paired with a brief lesson on leadership’s ties to Vitruvian principles of architecture in Part I. Daas launches into the discussion and discovery of how leaders can leverage a refined definition of aesthetics as part of an overall transformational leadership strategy by starting with his central theme: aesthetics are “foundational to our experience as human beings and essential to how we encounter the world in a way that defines our identity and affirms our existence” (p. 2). It is with this definition that Daas is able to construct his story of the MIT experience during Vest’s tenure.

At the conclusion of Part I, Daas has set the stage for the more engaging Part II. Moving from a campus nicknamed the “Gray Factory” to one that would garner world recognition for its “starchitecture,” Vest’s legacy lies not only in the buildings he successfully erected but also in the transformational leadership he mastered in steering MIT into the 21st century. So evocative were the changes to the MIT campus under Vest’s leadership that it sparked John Silber (2007), past president of Boston University, to pen his own response, Architecture of the Absurd: How “Genius” Disfigured a Practical Art, a critique of contemporary architecture and what Silber saw as the drift from practical applications of architecture in favor of the absurd.

Why focus on aesthetics and specifically the architecture of a campus for his investigation of leadership? Daas cites the research of numerous earlier studies in creating his own foundation (Broadbent, Bunt, and Jencks 1980; Eco 1979; Giedion 1967; Jencks 1991; Preziosi 1979; Rykwert 1982; Strati 1999c, 2010) and concludes, “the architecture of an organization is a fundamental organizational artifact that provides the most tangible, spatial, and material continuity for an organization’s mission, identity, and meaning” (p. 5).

As a reader, Daas’s discussion of leading with aesthetics left me wanting a stronger and more applicable operational definition of aesthetic leadership and yearning for more images of the MIT campus, particularly ones rendered in color to counter the impression of the Gray Factory nickname. At the same time, anyone who has had to rally financial or emotional support for the physical campus will be spirited by the narration of Vest’s approach to assembling a leadership team and struggling with donors, alumni, and community alike. Without proclaiming the success or failure of Vest and his endeavors, Daas concludes, “as the single largest investment and asset for any institution, the physical plant and architecture encompass all aspects and all stakeholders of an institution, which presents a president with an opportunity-if understood well-to advance the institution’s mission and evolve institutional identity through enduring change” (p. 135).



Birnbaum, R. 1992. How Academic Leadership Works: Understanding Success and Failure in the College Presidency. San Francisco: JosseyBass.

Silber, J. 2007. Architecture of the Absurd: How “Genius” Disfigured a Practical Art. New York: Quantuck Lane Press.



DANIEL J HARPER, MA, MID, NCIDQ #014453, currently serves as assistant dean of facilities and IT for the College of Fine Arts at Ohio University and also teaches in the interior architecture program. His research explores the intersection of technology and design and design education. He has been a practicing interior designer for over 20 years, and he can be reached at


Panel: Doctoral Education in Architecture, Santiago, Chile

Engaging, timely, and energizing discussion about doctoral education in architecture. Pleased to share the panel with Branko Kolarevic at the ACSA International Conference Administrators’ Track. Great setting at the School of Architecture at the Catholic University of Chile.

Meeting with Chilean Academics and Architects

Honored to meet President Jose José Antonio Guzmán C. & cabinet members and prominent Chilean architects at Universidad de Los Andes, Santiago. Great discussion, gorgeous campus and a great institution!