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Over 300 people from around the world registered to Zoom in for the two-day Summit that took place last month on Thursday and Friday, June 11 and 12.
Like most of SEGD’s other 2020 events, the Academic Summit was going to be a physical convening, taking place a day before the annual conference in Portland, Ore. And, like any other year, we expected about 60 educators and students to show up for the day—but 2020 is the year of surprises.
Over 300 people from around the world registered to Zoom in for the two-day Summit that took place last month on Thursday and Friday, June 11 and 12. Participants included experiential designers, museum professionals, university deans, professors, and students from near and far: Tasmania, Istanbul, New Delhi, Vancouver, Mexico City, Winnipeg, WenZhou, Riga, Mumbai, Berlin, Sao Paulo, Brisbane, and many states across the U.S.
11 papers were presented by SEGD veterans and newcomers alike, selected by a peer-review panel from the Academic Task Force. “We might have known we were heading into unusual territory when we received nearly double the number of proposals this spring,” says Christina Lyons, Fashion Institute of Technology and chair of SEGD’s ATF. Four sessions took place over two days with moderated discussions by members of the Academic Taskforce interwoven throughout.
Educator Wayne Hunt, FSEGD delivery of his curriculum on teaching 3D to 2D students was lauded roundly, as were graduate students Sabrill Holcomb, University of Minnesota, who presented her thesis on the Green Book as a wayfinding document. Yeohyun Ahn, University of Wisconsin Madison, shared typographic self-portraits as a response to invisibility as a woman of color and as an immigrant, and Sara Mitschke, a graduate student at Texas State University, addressed park system wayfinding and user-centric design.
James March, Sheridan College, considered multi-sensory experiences in the design of space, and Karen Watkins, West Chester University of Pennsylvania took us through immersive exhibition design based on a study abroad experience. Other topics included alternative approaches to design research, space design for children with incarcerated mothers, social design, and design that moves beyond the screen.
Breakout sessions were added to the program to address topical concerns. Attendees were invited to join in conversations on one of three prompts: how might higher education re-organize to address new models for hybrid learning, how can we increase population diversity in design education, and how can we assist and mentor students and staff given the emotional impact of current events?
What happened across these breakout sessions was unexpected, says Hilary Jay, SEGD’s Director of Education. “The first two questions drew the greatest number of people and those conversations centered on policy and system design consideration whereas the last prompt brought in a smaller cohort who shared personal experiences. Somewhere along that conversation continuum we could hear specific ideas for reducing individual biases, increasing empathetic understanding, and designing better educational systems for inclusion.”
The 2020 Academic Summit provided a forum for current thinking in design education, innovative student project research, and curriculum advancements as it was initially intended to do. In the end, though, the convening provided an essential place to start the multi-level conversations we as THE experiential design community must have to forge pathways forward for diversity in design education and the profession, in general.