Notes From the Dean
Parsons the New School for Design’s multidisciplinary curriculum evolves with the twenty-first century.
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The Parsons DESIS Lab (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability) spent a year immersed in the New York City neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, uncovering ways to improve the city.
Courtesy Ben Ferrari
So from day one, Parsons students are actively considering what is compelling to them about design, and they are empowered to make decisions that shape their education. Our course requirements are still defined (and the result of many years of development), but within these parameters students are presented with possibilities. We continue to teach the fundamentals of drawing, making, technology, and critical thinking, but those skills are integrated across four years of study rather than organized into discrete courses. This structure encourages students to push the boundaries of disciplinary learning beyond the routine questions of fashion vs. architecture vs. graphic design, and into the larger issue of design’s potential as an agent of change. This will require them to understand the relationship between design and society. They might, for example, explore ideas of authenticity and memory, attempt to understand time as a form of composition, and work with space and materials as they relate to the human form and cultural objects.
In addition to promoting choice as a key element of the experience, the changes to our curriculum place significant emphasis on integrating studio learning with the liberal arts. Every student takes two sets of paired courses in their first year—a design studio integrated with a liberal arts seminar—that are intended to generate unexpected connections between the two classroom approaches. In the seminar, they explore concepts through critical analysis, presentation, reading, and writing—and in the studio they apply them through research, prototyping, and creative process. Students in these Integrative Studio and Seminar courses are able to select a thematic lens through which to approach the course material, choosing from such options as Avatar, Memory, Community Engagement, and Visual Culture. (These types of thematic options are also made available to them in their required studio courses: Drawing/Imaging, Space/Materiality, and Time).
Across the Parsons curriculum we have ensured that disciplinary learning will not preclude more exploratory studies—that students will be the ones deciding whether to dive deep into their majors or further expand their coursework. To that end, we established that every program will include, at minimum, enough free space for students to pursue a minor in addition to fulfilling their degree requirements. This minor could be in another design or humanities discipline, or in an area such as entrepreneurship and new economies.