Huiju Park, associate professor in the Department of Human Centered Design, won this year’s Class of 1972 Award for Academic Innovation, which will be presented during Reunion weekend. The award, which includes a $10,000 cash prize, is presented every five years to Cornell professors who design innovative ways of communicating their subject matter and demonstrate a commitment to excellence in education. Professor David Albonesi, in the College of Engineering, also won the award this year. This year, the award coincides with the celebration of the 50th reunion of the class of 1972.
Park, who is also director of the Performance Apparel Design Lab, was nominated by the dean of the College of Human Ecology for his work teaching FSAD 2600: Active Design and Product Development and FSAD 3990: Smart Clothing — Design and Programming, which was created to bridge design with computation, programming, and data science. The course enrolled an even mix of students majoring in human centered design and computing and information science.
Park’s teaching methodology aims to help students experience and absorb core knowledge and then apply what they learn through a project-based framework. “I spend a lot of effort designing class projects and activities so that even after the semester ends, students will continue to marry programming and design with confidence, and further explore computing-based design activities,” says Park. Learning by doing allows students to develop and retain a skillset through muscle memory, he adds.
Park says he brings both science and empathy to his teaching and research to best understand user needs and to design successful products. Park’s research includes development and evaluation of new performance apparel, such as high performance activewear, and protective clothing for improved thermal comfort, mobility, safety and functionality. He draws inspiration from news and current events as well as personal interactions. Whether it is designing better fitting protective clothing for female firefighters, less-reactive garments for children with autism and sensory processing disorders, or gender-inclusive performance apparel for gymnasts, he embraces body and spirit by keeping both the garment worker and the end user’s health and well-being in mind.
“The goal of the award is to recognize someone truly committed to innovative teaching,” said Nancy Roistacher ’72. “People were intrigued not just by what Park does, but by the way he inspires students.”
Several faculty members in the Department of Human Centered Design have previously won this university-wide award including Juan Hinestroza, Rebecca Q Morgan '60 Professor of Fiber Science & Apparel Design; Denise Green, associate professor; Gary Evans, Elizabeth Lee Vincent Professor of Human Centered Design, Psychology; and Paul Eshelman, professor emeritus. Previous award winners are invited back to a class dinner each reunion.
This is not the first teaching accolade Park – or his instructional team -– have won. In 2021 he was awarded second place in the Nancy Rutherford Teaching Innovation Award by the International Textile and Apparel Association. That same year, advisee Lauren Forstenhausler ‘21 called Park the most influential professor to impact her success at Cornell when she was named a Merrill Presidential Scholar.
Park plans to use the prize money to further innovate and improve the classroom experience, including teaching assistant support. He will present his teaching philosophy and examples of student work to the Class of 1972 during Reunion weekend.