Teaching Sea Changes

Andrea English
Lecturer
Department Of Design
San José State University

How can design education facilitate the relationship between the deepest passions of students and today’s urgent needs? How can design curricula teach students to creatively presence transformation, meaning, and compassion? The BA Senior capstone class at SJSU engages students at the creative intersection of their lives, their work, and the world. Starting with the premise that creativity sources within each of us, students design their “calling intentions” and clarify what meaningful work means to them. They envision products, services, projects, or initiatives that can inspire and influence sea changes. These spring from a deeply authentic place within themselves and address issues including water, human rights, gender equality, and more. Through lectures, workshops, visualizations, and storytelling, they begin to design work worth doing.

This presentation briefly introduces the innovative and integrative Sea Change Design Process® (designed by Lauralee Alben) on which this course is built, and showcases student design projects that result from a semester-long exploration. The student work visualizes highly abstract ideas; leverages personal calling intentions into organizational intentions, offers holistic approaches to solution-finding, and explores the relationship between design and human experience.

Experiments in Building Empathy and Revealing Bias

Rebecca Mushtare
Associate Professor Of Web Design & Multimedia
State University Of New York At Oswego

When left to our own devices, we unconsciously design for the audience we know best—ourselves. Although some traditional-aged college students have had travel opportunities or exposure to diverse cultures and communities, most still have limited life experience, which magnifies this tendency.  If inclusivity is an ethic we want our students to adopt as professionals,  we need to do more than read and talk about empathy and bias in the classroom. These values need to be embedded in our curriculum including how we frame assignments, the way we talk about design during critique, and our evaluation systems.

Overhauling an entire curriculum, or even a course, and starting from scratch is likely not an option for most faculty. Additionally, teaching empathy and implicit bias can be overwhelming for faculty who have not been trained,  and therefore do not have the language to confidently speak on the subject. What we can do, though, is make incremental changes in our classrooms that focus on raising awareness of assumptions we make and how our choices impact our audiences. Small changes can have real impact.

In this session, I will share the successes, failures and limitations of four years of experimentation and tinkering in the courses I teach combined with my own journey to become more aware of my blindspots and biases.