Bixler Initiatives

​With a generous donation from Don and Maria Johnson, Bixler International Initiatives (BII) was founded in 2018 to support educational exchanges between Finland, Italy, Japan and the College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) at the University of Colorado Denver.  Bixler International Initiatives build on the groundbreaking programs established by Finnish Initiatives (2013 – 2017), including student scholarships, faculty exchanges, visiting lecturers, visiting scholars, architectural exhibitions, and summer study abroad support.  

Today’s professional designers practice in an expanding global market place.  An appreciation of historical and cultural differences provides students with critical perspectives for professional success internationally.  There is no substitute for experiencing in person the built environment in other cultures to appreciate global diversity.  We are committed to providing students and faculty members with strategic and unique educational exchange opportunities involving CAP and architecture schools in Finland, Italy, and Japan.

Taisto Mäkelä, Director of Bixler International Initiatives, by email​ at

Johnson Scholarship
The Johnson Scholarship covers full tuition for one-semester of study in the M.Arch degree program at the College of Architecture and Planning, University of Colorado Denver. The Scholarship is open to applicants from Finland, Italy, and Japan who have finished an undergraduate architecture degree or who currently are in a graduate architecture degree program in Finland, Italy, or Japan.  Up to 2 scholarships are made each year.  All scholarships begin in fall semester. Depending on available funding, the Scholarship may be continued for a second semester for students accepted into the Design Build Program.

Open to students who will have completed the undergraduate degree in architecture from a qualified university in Finland, Japan, or Italy prior to CU Denver enrollment.
​​​Recipients must meet all of the requirements for the MArch program, and must be admitted to the program.
Recipients must be residents of Finland, Japan, or Italy.
Recipients must have a strong affiliation with the Finnish, Japanese, or Italian culture.

Application Process:
Apply to the Master of Architecture program at CU Denver.​
Submit a completed scholarship application and a short essay describing your connection with the Finnish, Japanese, or Italian culture. Submit the scholarship application and essay to Taisto Mäkelä​ by the application deadline. Only complete, on-time submissions will be considered.

After completing deliberations, the Admissions Committee in the Department of Architecture forwards to the Chair their recommendation for the recipient of the Johnson Scholarship.  The Chair announces the winner.

Application Deadline:
January 15.  

Award Amount:
Covers full tuition for one semester at CU Denver, contingent upon meeting requirements. Depending on available funding, the scholarship may be extended for a second semester for students accepted into the Design Build Certificate Program.

Enroll in a full course load of 12 - 15 credit hours each semester
Maintain a 3.0 GPA
​Remain in good academic standing

Number of Scholarships available:
Up to two new recipients per academic year.  

About the Johnsons
Donald Lee Johnson is one of four generations who graduated from the University of Colorado.  After receiving his BFA in Interior Architecture in 1962, Donald worked in Los Angeles with several design and planning firms working for major corporations around the world.  In 1972, he founded Aegina Associates, a firm doing interior architecture, planning and architecture.  Clients included Getty Oil, Columbia Pictures, the State of California and major real estate development firms.

In 1978 in Los Angeles, Donald met a Fulbright Scholar from Finland, Maria Annelli Vuorimaa, who was studying at UCLA where she received a Masters Degree in Modern Dance.  In 1979 they married and moved to Boulder where Donald managed family properties and designed residential and commercial buildings, designed furniture and did urban land planning and real estate development.

In Boulder, Maria founded Verve Dance Company and taught, choreographed and performed in Colorado, California and Finland.  In 1984 Maria founded Finnish Line and designed, made and sold fashion apparel around the country.  She continues to design and make wearable art and pursue her passion for landscaping and gardening.

Both Donald and Maria share an interest in the arts, architecture, design, music, and dance.  They collect contemporary art, handcrafts and sculpture in their world travels.  Both believe in giving back to a society from which they have received so much.  Johnson Scholars will be provided with the opportunity to study in the USA as Maria did.