Stacie Rohrbach, Tampa Avenue, is an associate professor and director of graduate studies in the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University. She is the recipient of this year’s Henry Hornbostel Teaching Award for teaching excellence, given by the College of Fine Arts.
What’s going on in the design field?
It’s a very exciting time to be learning, teaching and working in the field of design because so much of our daily activities rely on artifacts that are designed well. Designers are also collaborating with experts in other fields to tackle the world’s most pressing issues, such as addressing global sustainability and media literacy problems.
What is it like teaching a hands-on discipline during a pandemic?
My colleagues, students and I are accustomed to tackling complex and unruly challenges, using design approaches to investigate problems and propose innovative solutions, which we applied to teaching and learning this year. We sourced materials that students could easily procure around the world for course projects; we seized the opportunity to invite experts in remote locations to join class discussions via Zoom; we actively integrated gameplay into our lessons to boost engagement, and we built a virtual space where people could gather for impromptu conversations outside of class sessions.
What excites you about the future of design education?
This year has highlighted the important role design can and should play in addressing the social, technological, environmental, economic and political challenges that we face. I look forward to working with my colleagues and students on critical issues, fostering a sense of tenacity, curiosity, ingenuity, and empathy in all we do. Whether teaching remotely or in person, I am eager to continue helping my students strengthen their agility and resiliency, pivoting their thinking and approaches when warranted. Certainly, this year has proven that we are capable of accomplishing lofty goals when we work together and embrace lifelong learning. The power of knowledge and community is awe inspiring and I look forward to serving as a contributing member for years to come.