Design@Cornell Roundtable

How can design faculty campus-wide work together to increase research and teaching collaborations, improve access to information and provide student learning opportunities beyond their home departments? That was the topic of discussion at the inaugural "Design @ Cornell" Roundtable, held in February and funded by the College of Human Ecology.

“The primary focus is coordinating our teaching effort,” Mardelle Shepley, professor and chair in the Department of Design + Environmental Analysis (DEA), and an organizer of the symposium, said. “We’re trying to provide a stream of courses that would encourage students to access design classes across the campus. That may mean creating new courses, it may mean encouraging co-enrollment from different departments. The big picture, if we had the funding, would be to add positions for courses that would be offered to all freshman, not just in individual departments.”

Around 60 people attended the roundtable, which began with comments from interim Dean Rachel Dunifon (CHE) and College of Art, Architecture and Planning Dean Meejin Yoon, followed by a brief history of the "Design @ Cornell" initiative. Faculty members from architecture; art; city and regional planning; DEA; fiber science and apparel design; information science; landscape architecture; performing and media arts; and mechanical engineering then presented on the design philosophies of their programs, before attendees broke into discussion groups.

“By understanding the design process people can problem-solve more effectively, and we’re looking at a lot of big problems as a society, from climate change to social injustice,” Shepley said. “If you have a tool like design process and design-thinking to help you sort your way through challenges, then you’re going to be more effective in coming up with important and potentially radical new ideas.”

The next step of the initiative is to form a committee to establish and promote the goals of the group leading up to next year’s roundtable, which will also be funded by CHE. According to Shepley, the committee will decide the scale and scope of the goals for "Design @ Cornell", whether that is on the level of information resources for faculty and students to learn about the design work taking place, collaboration opportunities and course offerings across campus, or at the infrastructure level, such as an institute of design.

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