Kevin Houser has distinguished himself as an educator at both the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Pennsylvania State University, which is his alma matter. Although he has taught lighting in architectural engineering programs for more than 10 years, he was drawn to the field not only for its technical side, but also for how lighting impacts human emotions and conveys information. Most recently, he has been busy with Project CANDLE (Create an Alliance to Nurture Design in Lighting Education), a program with IALD Grant to Enhance funding that focuses on strengthening industry/university partnerships to increase the number of lighting students and create an educational curriculum that is responsive to industry issues. A perpetual student, Houser thrives on a love of learning and sharing of ideas—an excellent combination for infusing the next generation of lighting designers with a passion for lighting.
How do you maintain lighting's presence at a large school? Even though many universities are nonprofits, they operate like a business. Getting traction with the decision makers—university presidents, deans, and department heads—is really important.
Is there a “way” to teach lighting? There are specifics to each institution that one has to be mindful of, but I am encouraged by the idea of a core curriculum. It's forward thinking in its attempt to harmonize the skills that a person should have to call themselves a lighting designer when they graduate.
Do you see a time when lighting will require licensure? Long-term I think this will have to happen; the Texas House Bill issue brought that to the fore. If lighting is going to be taken seriously as a profession, licensure is going to need to be a part of that.
How can lighting education sustain itself? There is a genuine desire among educators, lighting professionals and the manufacturing community to develop long-term collaborative relationships. That's been a tenet of Project CANDLE. It says a lot to students when they see professional and industry support.
What would you tell those students who now are entering the job market? These are, unfortunately, unusually bad economic times, but I'd encourage students to take the long view. What happens in the next 12 to 24 months is not likely, we hope, to be characteristic of what happens over the next few decades. There are more interesting things happening in lighting than at any time since I've been involved in this field.