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Monday, October 13, 2014

Design Futures Forum Reflections [Part 2]

Malia Lee Panorama.jpgImage Courtesy Malia Lee

This past June, six students from the College of Design got the opportunity to travel, along with faculty member James Wheeler, to the second annual Design Futures Public Interest Design Student Leadership Forum. The gathering, this year held at Tulane University's School of Architecture in New Orleans, is an effort to bring together students and leaders in public interest design for discussion and exploration of design in the public interest. The event this past year included 10 workshops, 26 speakers, and 65 students from across the globe. Below are three short reflections on the experience, written by some of the Minnesota students who attended. [Part 2 - scroll down to see previous blog post with more student reflections].

Malia Lee Theresa Hwang.jpg Malia Lee, Theresa Hwang, and Other Forum Attendee - Image Courtesy Malia Lee

Malia Lee
The Design Futures Forum was an amazing opportunity where individuals from across the country came together with different interdisciplinary backgrounds to discuss visions of public interest design (PID) along with new initiatives and previous experiences on using design for the greater good. Through the many workshops I received training on financing public interest design projects, organizing, understanding communities, looking at case studies, investigating PID interests, and learning about the overall complexities of community oriented design. In addition to receiving some training, I was able to build relationships and camaraderie with like-minded individuals who were both professionals and students. The forum left me feeling empowered, knowing that as students we have the ability to create a lot change in fact we may even be in better position to do so while we are students. It was inspiring being able to listen to speakers such as Bryan Bell, James Stockard, Maurice Cox, Dan Etheridge, John Peterson, and Theresa Hwang. Theresa Hwang's project was one that really stuck with me. She is a Rose Fellow that focused on tackling the homelessness issue on Skid Row, in Los Angeles, California. The underlining question is, how can design thinking be used to empower communities in order to achieve longstanding results that can elevate communities to another level? The most effective outcomes occur when assisting and helping communities solve problems from within. To achieve the best results through our efforts we need to learn to let go of our personal values and beliefs and understand the values and beliefs of those in which we intend to serve. Through being at the Design Futures Forum I feel more confident and empowered moving forward as a designer and community activist and I have made new connections with other leaders from around the country who share similar interests.

Sarah Hayosh.jpg Image Courtesy Sarah Hayosh

Sarah Hayosh
One of the most rewarding parts of the Design Futures student leadership forum was the opportunity to form connections with a diverse set of students and professionals with experience in the field. For 5 days, not only did we have engaging workshops and presentations by current leaders in the field, we were surrounded by a cohort of peers, many of whom, over nighttime conversations over beers and oysters, or long winding walks home through muggy New Orleans neighborhoods, I learned were also grappling with some of the same questions regarding public interest design that I was. The scale ranged from the structural to the intensely personal. How do we move public interest design beyond subsidized or pro-bono initiatives? How do you take something akin to a movement, that is inherently human and messy, begin to translate its values into mainstream practice? What are the values upon which we should base our work? What are my values? How have my lived experiences shaped those values? Design Futures was a great place to discuss and debate, share ideas and learn from each other, but it's not the only forum where we can explore those questions and have those conversations. Kitty cat club, anyone?

Moriah Baltz Streetcars.JPG New Orleans Streetcars - Image Courtesy Moriah Baltz

Moriah Baltz
The design futures public interest design forum was a fantastic learning opportunity that inspired me to start thinking like a leader, define my learning goals and imagine my career path. Through the forum, I was exposed to PID leaders as well as architecture, landscape architecture, finance, housing, and urban planning students and faculty from all over the United States. Most importantly the forum provided me with the training and inspiration to develop my community engagement skills, invest in the PID network and maintain goal-oriented work. Overall, I learned that PID will look different for different people and might change throughout the course of any one person's career, but it is important to recognize that there are many ways to have an impact. It is not how this work is manifested but the quality of the goals that define what drives the work. At the forum, we talked about how specific goals may change but we must keep our aspiration and believe we can make a change. This discussion helped me realize the importance of identifying transferrable skills and the potential for learning in any role. More importantly, it gave me the confidence to recognize that, no matter my situation, I can find a way to do meaningful work. The forum inspired me to fight for idealism and believe I have the choice to name and claim the world I want to live in.

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