Auburn University selects Dawn Finley as dean of the College of Architecture, Design and Construction

Dawn Finley, Professor of Architecture and Director of Graduate Studies in the School of Architecture at Rice University, has been selected as the next dean and McWhorter Endowed Chair of Auburn University's College of Architecture, Design and Construction, or CADC, effective July 1.

Dawn Finley
Dawn Finley

Finley, a renowned designer, scholar and practitioner, brings more than two decades of experience in design, academia and research practice to the role of dean. As the Director of Graduate Studies and a Faculty Fellow at Rice University’s Center of Teaching Excellence, Finley has worked alongside faculty and students to advance the School of Architecture’s design practice methods and creative scholarship. Often recognized for her ability to expand architecture practice through systems engagement, Finley’s research and community outreach have earned her numerous accolades, including being named one of DesignIntelligence’s Top 25 Most Admired US Educators and Educator of the Year by the American Institute of Architects’ Houston chapter.

“Dawn Finley’s dedication to promoting academic and scholarly endeavors in the design and the built environment, coupled with her ability to harness the existing strengths of CADC, position her well to advance the vision and goals of the college,” said Provost Vini Nathan. “Under her leadership, I am confident that CADC is poised to embark on an exciting new chapter of innovation, growth and distinction.”

Widely regarded for her industry partnerships and architectural work, Finley has used her role as director of graduate studies to introduce innovative graduate design programs at Rice Architecture. Finley has worked with faculty and students to bolster the school’s research and graduate curriculum, resulting in improved design outcomes and increased real-world impact. Under her leadership, Rice Architecture has advanced its position as one of the nation’s top-ranked graduate architecture programs.

“I am thrilled and deeply honored by this opportunity to lead the next chapter of the College of Architecture, Design and Construction’s history,” said Finley. “There are so many pressing concerns in the world today. I believe that design, with its complexities, range of scales, types, and mediums, is essential for addressing such concerns, particularly in the built environment. The culture within the college and potential influences between the three vital schools offer an exciting context for collaborative design research, and I am excited to work with the CADC and the leadership at Auburn University to build upon the interdisciplinary potentials of architecture, design and construction toward innovative, relevant proposals for our collective world and future.”

In addition to her teaching and administrative responsibilities, Finley is the co-founder and principal of the Houston–based firm Interloop—Architecture, or IA, a nationally acclaimed practice that specializes in innovative building technologies, material experimentation and inventive forms. With a portfolio that ranges from custom furniture, graphics and the industrial design of objects to private residences, research complexes and cultural institutions, Finley’s work with IA has enabled her to advance the connections between design, fabrication and assembly at a variety of scales. In 2022, Finley authored System of Novelties, a reflection of the firm’s innovative architectural designs that have influenced professional design experiences and procedures for over two decades.

Finley’s recent research project includes Pliable, an experimental workshop investigating the architectural potentials of textile techniques and processes through small-, medium- and large-scale making.

Finley is also invested in research and teaching initiatives that advance design and the built environment in relation to people with disabilities, including developing a first-year graduate studio highlighting regulatory considerations and human rights. Through her efforts to connect interdisciplinary scholarship across architecture, design and disability, Finley is creating a forum, titled Body-Plus, that engages disability researchers, designers and members of the disability community in meaningful dialogue and scholarship.

As dean, Finley will oversee more than 1,800 students and 150 faculty and staff and will lead its nationally ranked programs across its three schools, including the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture; the McWhorter School of Building Science; and the School of Industrial and Graphic Design.

Known for its engaged faculty and emphasis on creative scholarship and community engagement, CADC is recognized for its emphasis on sustainable and equitable solutions in all areas of the built environment and innovative product development. The college offers programs and experiences that foster practical application through signature programs that include the award-winning Rural Studio, Urban Studio and the Center for Construction Innovation and Collaboration.

Finley received a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Michigan and a Master of Architecture from Rice University.

Finley succeeds Karen Rogers, who has served as interim dean since 2022.


The College of Architecture, Design and Construction at Auburn University houses programs in architecture, interior architecture, landscape architecture, environmental design, graphic design, industrial design and construction management, which are consistently ranked among the best in the nation. Today, more than 1,800 students are enrolled in CADC’s highly regarded graduate and undergraduate programs, led by more than 40 faculty. Reflecting the land-grant mission of the university, CADC puts design thinking and building skills to work on today’s challenges, addressing sustainable and equitable solutions in all areas of the built environment.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn’s mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.

Related people:
Karen Rogers, Vini Nathan