Designmatters Welcomes Fellow-in-Residency from Ireland, Sponsored Project Representative from Chile

Dr. Muireann McMahon

Dr. Muireann McMahon, Designmatters Post-Doctoral Fellow-in-Residency. Photo by Alex Aristei.

Art Center welcomes Dr. Muireann McMahon who joins the Designmatters Department as the inaugural Designmatters Post-Doctoral Fellow-in-Residency through August.

McMahon is dedicating her six-month sabbatical, generously funded by the University of Limerick in Ireland, to contribute her teaching and research expertise to a variety of courses and projects during her time at the college.

For the Spring term, McMahon is embedded in the Product Design Sustainability course led by Heidrun Mumper-Drumm and Dice Yamaguchi. Her intent is to gain a close understanding of the transdisciplinary teaching methods and project-based learning that occurs across the college, with a particular focus on studying Designmatters courses, and the collaborative models the department has in place to structure social impact projects that yield real-world outcomes.

We caught up with McMahon during a mid-term presentation by a different group of Designmatters students, collaborating on the Coaniquem project led by Graphic Design faculty member Guillaume Wolf. The in-depth creative proposals they unveiled—for a campaign to raise awareness and funds to prevent and treat childhood burns—belied the short six-week time frame the 12 students had to develop them.

Dr. Jorge Rojas

Dr. Jorge Rojas, founding physician and president of Coaniquem. Photo by Alex Aristei.

Coaniquem representatives were impressed. “I love what you have done here,” a beaming Dr. Jorge Rojas, founding physician and president of the Chile-based nonprofit, told the students afterward. “I am very happy. Today’s meeting has been extremely important to set the vision.” Accompanied by two board members of a private U.S foundation that supports Coaniquem, Dr. Rojas added that they look forward to presenting the students’ campaign to the full board meeting in April. Before leaving he circulated through the room and thanked each student personally, proffering handshakes and kisses on the cheek.

Art Center’s personal touch, students’ “real engagement”

That kind of personal touch is something that McMahon, still settling into her new environment, already appreciates about Art Center. Los Angeles County is four times larger than County Limerick, but Art Center is a far smaller, more intimate school than her home institution, the University of Limerick, which has more than 11,000 students. The difference in scale makes a difference in what Art Center students are able to accomplish. “Their work is of such high quality,” says McMahon, “And they have a real work ethic, driven not by academic requirements, but by real engagement.”

Following their presentation, some of Designmatters students and faculty come together with Coaniquem representatives for a group photo. Photo by Alex Aristei.

She anticipates that ”these six months will offer an amazing opportunity to work with Art Center faculty and the dynamic Designmatters team, and to see the real-world impacts Design for Social Innovation projects have on both education and on the lives of the cooperating partners”—including Coaniquem and the thousands of children it serves.

McMahon received her PhD in Design Research and Education in December 2012. Her dissertation was entitled: “Designed from the Inside Out: Developing capacity for social sustainability in design through collaboration.” She brings more than a decade of teaching experience in industrial design and design for sustainability and expertise as international guest lecturer in a number of universities including the Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia, and Unitec, Auckland, New Zealand.

To meet Dr. McMahon, drop by the Designmatters office or feel free to reach out to her via email at

—Sylvia Sukop

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