Notes From the Dean
Parsons the New School for Design’s multidisciplinary curriculum evolves with the twenty-first century.
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Hello Compost, a thesis project by Parsons alumni Aly Blenkin and Luke Keller, seeks to introduce food-waste collection to low-income families by giving them a percentage of the revenue, which will earn them credits for purchasing locally grown produce.
Courtesy Aly Blenkin and Luke Keller
Being part of a university, the New School, opens up remarkable possibilities for cross-disciplinary study. As our incoming freshmen progress through the curriculum, we expect to see them using the flexibility afforded them to do the unexpected. That might mean an architecture student minoring in politics, a fashion major pursuing a course of study in Chinese, or a communication designer taking a minor in psychology. Or it might mean fine arts students collaborating with jazz students, or management students initiating a project with philosophy majors. We don’t know what they will choose to do, but we’ve opened the doors for them. It will be up to each student to exercise that freedom and create an experience that appeals to her imagination and goals.
But no matter what course of study a student pursues, she will not learn about design in isolation. Today’s complexities require approaches that interweave design with other ways of thinking and doing. Students need to actively engage with the role design can play in shaping the world around them, and gain real experience working with others across disciplines, cultures, and perspectives. This approach drives the work of consultancies such as IDEO and Frog Design, where social scientists, designers, artists, and business professionals collaborate, applying their collective expertise. At Parsons, we teach similarly cross-disciplinary routes, taking advantage of our unique position within a university that values design as equally as it does the social sciences, performing arts, management, policy, and liberal arts. This environment provides natural opportunities to bring together students and faculty from a diverse array of academic fields, to conduct research, tackle real-world projects, or just share ideas. When I see the results of these cross-university efforts—whether it’s the design and construction of passive houses or a program for youth that connects education to design and social change—I’m more convinced than ever that design education cannot operate alone.