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ArtCenter Launches Minor in Social Innovation

DesignmattersMinorBeginning this summer, students will be able to enroll in a new minor in Social Innovation, through the popular Designmatters department. The move is in response to an increased demand for the specialization among undergraduate students for mastery in skills and competencies to work in public and private sector organizations where the strategic role of design is increasingly being valued.

“It is very meaningful to satisfy the demand for this dynamic curriculum and meet the needs of our impressive students who are passionate about social innovation and dedicated to making a positive difference on society locally and globally,” said Mariana Amatullo, Ph.D., co-founder and vice president, Designmatters Department.

“Design for social innovation represents a vivid domain of human knowledge that ignites a boundless sense of possibility about a brighter future,” Amatullo continued. “By implementing a minor in the field, we provide students with a specialized toolkit of skills based on experiential learning gained by tackling real-world, real-time issues that highlight the role of art and design in catalyzing social-innovation outcomes.”

Candidates for the minor are students who crave the mastery of multidisciplinary skills and the collaborative mindset needed to propel innovation at such prestigious companies and organizations as UNICEF, IBM, Samsung and many more.

Examples of award-winning work conceived by students excelling in design for social innovation include:

· Environmental Design student Alvin Oei travels this month to Santiago, Chile to implement his concept for a children’s burn clinic to guide patients and their families through an improved treatment and healing experience. Oei’s The Healing Tree, is a result of his participation in ArtCenter’s Designmatters Safe Niños transdisciplinary studio with COANIQUEM, a world leader in the rehabilitation of pediatric burn victims.

· Safe Agua is a multi-year design and research initiative that has yielded a number of innovative products and services created by ArtCenter students to help families overcome water poverty in Chile, Peru and Colombia.

· Es Tiempo is a multi-faceted communications campaign, in partnership with the USC Keck School of Medicine and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, to raise awareness and support for the prevention and treatment of cervical cancer among Latinas living in Los Angeles.

· Flo developed for young girls in third world countries dealing with the challenges of menstruation without proper sanitary products, is the result of the ArtCenter Designmatters’ Girl Effect studio. The collaboration with Yale School of Management was based on field research from Fuseproject and Nike Foundation.

· Where’s Daryl is a violence and gun prevention teacher-toolkit created in collaboration the Los Angeles Unified School District and designed to serve a diverse population of at-risk youth.

Initially, the minor will be offered in six departments that have a significant population of students with interest in the specialization. Those departments are Graphic Design, Interaction Design, Product Design, Environmental Design, Illustration and Fine Art. Students from other majors will be able to apply on a case-by-case basis.

The minor formalizes and expands upon an existing Designmatters concentration launched in 2010. The new specialization offers students a curriculum comprised of 21 units designed to be completed within the time typically required to obtain a degree.

Students seeking the minor will enroll in a mix of studio courses, transdisciplinary studio requirements and courses in the Humanities and Sciences.

Designmatters recently published the collective wisdom of 84 game changers in the field of social innovation in a new book. LEAP Dialogues: Career Pathways for Designers in Social Innovation is the first publication of its kind to present a comprehensive overview of new professional pathways to successful and meaningful careers as experienced first-hand by a who’s who of respected thought leaders (practitioners, researchers and educators) who are making seminal contributions to the field.

This week at ArtCenter

DroneTuesday, March 28, 2017

11:30 am: DJI Drone Demo featuring Claudio Miranda, ASC (LIFE OF PI)
Los Angeles Times Media Center, Hillside Campus

Join esteemed cinematographer Claudio Miranda, ASC as he demos the latest in drone and gimbal technology from DJI. Mr.

DJI will hold a flying demo featuring an assortment of their drones in the sculpture garden at 12:15pm, immediately after Mr. Miranda’s talk.

This event is open to the entire ArtCenter community!

7:30 pm: Graduate Seminar Lecture Series: Jan Tumlir presents Mathias Poledna
Los Angeles Times Media Center, Hillside Campus

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

12:00–1:00 pm: Yoga
Sinclaire Pavilion (Room 201 if raining or excessively cold), Hillside Campus

Free and open to the entire ArtCenter community. Mats are available for checkout in the CSE office.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

1:00–2:00 pm: Yoga
Building Lobby or Room 101, 870 Building, South Campus

Mats are available for checkout in the CSE at Hillside.

Friday, March 31, 2017

4:00–­­6:00 pm: ArtCenter Student Government Meeting
Room 201, Hillside Campus

Knowledge is power: A Transportation Design student’s journey from Zimbabwe to ArtCenter


This story first appeared in Dot magazine.

One day, when then 6-year-old future Transportation Design student Thokozani Mabena was playing with friends in the shanty town where he grew up, in authoritarian-ruled Zimbabwe, he was drawn to a magazine he spotted near some trash bins.

Poring through the magazine, Mabena saw an article showcasing a Japanese designer who conceptualized the Nissan Z sports car. The article also featured a big, round, bright orange dot. Mabena didn’t know, during that pivotal moment of curiosity, that the dot represented ArtCenter, but he instinctively liked the article’s gorgeously vivid car design sketches.

“I’ve been sketching since I was 3. I was like, ‘Wow, maybe this is something I could do one day!’ and I just stored the thought in my memory bank,” said Mabena. “I didn’t know what a classic car was. I knew public transportation. I rode in carriages, pulled by a donkey. One time I rode an actual bull. Sometimes we had to walk long distances. Sometimes we took a truck with an open bed, and stood for hours. We rode bicycles, and in trains, buses, and then cars.”

Three decades after first seeing that ArtCenter dot, Mabena—who came to the United States in 2006 as a refugee—is now set to graduate this term, and will debut his ArtCenter Grad Show thesis project Airbnb-GO on April 20.

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Faculty Council announces Spring Teaching Advancement Awards


On Friday, March 17, the Faculty Council announced the 2017 Spring Teaching Advancement Award recipients. Teaching Advancement Awards offer faculty the opportunity to receive up to $1,000 to support a range of activities that enhance their knowledge as an educator and benefit students in classrooms and studios. A total of $3,000 is available to be disbursed each term to successful applicants for research, conferences, workshops, exhibitions and related travel expenses that are not covered by departmental classroom support.

The Spring 2017 recipients are:

Faculty Council will be accepting applications for Summer 2017 TAA grants early in the Summer Term. All faculty are encouraged to apply. Please contact for more information.

Human Resources (HR) Delivers on Training Programs in 2016: Seeking Input for 2017 Programming

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Employers recognize that a well-trained workforce is key to customer satisfaction, organizational success and building effective teams. ArtCenter is committed to developing and implementing training and development programs for its employees.

When Vice President of Human Resources Lisa M. Sanchez took over the chief HR role in 2015, one of her first priorities was to provide professional development training for employees. “A change in our Employee Assistance Program provider created a wonderful benefit and opportunity to implement training at ArtCenter. And under the direction of our new Assistant Vice President of Human Resources Tracy Kerr, she was able to effectively roll out a training series for staff and management,” said Sanchez.

From August 2016 to January 2017, HR offered topic-specific programs for staff and management on subjects such as financial management, customer service, leadership, interpersonal communication and managing conflict. ArtCenter-specific workshops on completing performance reviews and job description questionnaires were also offered. Still to come is a very important management training program on the basics of managing people. This program will include responsibilities of a manager, supervising staff time and attendance, overtime, performance management, protected leaves, diversity and Title IX issues and strategic thinking.

“HR is pleased to have partnered with the campus community to bring these training programs to our staff and that they have been well received. We look forward to working with the campus on future programs and are currently seeking feedback from the community on what they would like to see offered. We invite everyone to complete a brief survey regarding future training topics,” remarked Kerr.

The training sessions were well attended by both staff and managers. Many employees were pleased not only with the opportunity to learn from the workshops but also for the opportunity to talk with others across the campus.

Here is what people are saying about attending the trainings:

  • “[I liked] being able to interact and share experiences with peers and the facilitator in a safe, guided environment.”—Staff Participant
  •  “I’ve worked as a supervisor at ArtCenter for five years now and have always wanted more formal and frequent training on best practices in supervising/management. I’m happy to see HR increasing its role as a trainer.” —Supervisor Participant

Questions or suggestions? Please complete the survey and feel free to contact Kerr at

Seeking Solace: The Travel Ban’s Impact on ArtCenter Students


Note: This story first appeared in Dot magazine online.

Inside Graduate Art student Delbar Shahbaz’s South Campus art studio, several of her smaller sculptures—with pale birdlike bodies and human-looking heads—line a high shelf. A quote by British artist Tracey Emin declaring “Love is what you want” is scrawled in big black letters on a wall. In the corner, on a hot plate, sits a tea kettle, trailing fresh steam.

The studio is a safe space for the 38-year-old, who moved to the United States from her native Tehran, Iran in 2013, and started at ArtCenter in 2015. It’s a zone where Shahbaz—who has a green card and is set to graduate this term—can think, imagine, work and feel free.

That feeling of freedom changed on January 27 for Shahbaz and Iranian Transportation Design student Ehsan Momeninejad they said. That day President Donald Trump issued an executive order—currently blocked by federal courts—banning citizens from Muslim-majority countries Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days. Shahbaz’s sister, a Canadian citizen in Vancouver, was about to give birth to a son. Their parents live in Iran.

“I really want to go and see my sister, to help her, but I’m afraid. What if they don’t let me come back?” said Shahbaz, drinking tea in her studio. “I’ve already built my career here. I’m teaching an ArtCenter at Night sculpture class in the summer. I was feeling, with this order, ‘I’m alone, and I don’t have any land.’ Until then, I thought the U.S. was my land.”

Shahbaz and 27-year-old Momeninejad—who has a student visa—both protested at Los Angeles International Airport the day after the executive order was announced. News surrounding the order, and an updated one reportedly in the works, has shifted week by week. Momeninejad had intended to visit his parents and sister in Tehran in April, and now doesn’t want to risk going back and not be able to return to finish his degree, he said. Shahbaz has thrown herself into her work, seeking solace from ArtCenter faculty.

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An Intern’s Blog: Jonathan Hsiung


After going through six terms straight at ArtCenter, I decided to take a term off to do an internship. I wanted to learn more about what product designers do as professionals and validate what I’ve learned at ArtCenter. One opportunity led to another, and a term off turned into an entire year away doing three internships. The first was at Propelland, the second at Facebook and the third at Mercedes-Benz. Each of these experiences have taught me different lessons that have helped me to grow tremendously.

Come to think of it, doing internships is just like prototyping my life. Prototypes represent possible futures, and I get to learn from my internship experiences what works for me and what doesn’t.

While each internship was drastically different from one another in terms of company culture and work environment, the skills required were generally similar. As a product designer, I worked in cross-functional teams, conducted user research, designed user flows, built prototypes, produced specs and final assets and worked on implementation with engineers. Many of these functions validate the skills I need as a product designer that Art Center has helped me hone and acquire.

As an ArtCenter student, I’ve come to realize is that the hefty amount of deliverables and presentations required weekly in ArtCenter’s program has allowed me to develop a strong work ethic and good communication skills. These skills have helped me navigate various difficult situations in the workplace, and enabled me to work and perform more effectively under pressure.

If I have to pick the most important top three things that I learned during the entirety of my internship experiences, they would be self-awareness, self-initiation and prioritization. Acquiring a higher sense of self-awareness has allowed me to constantly reflect on how I can perform better. Self-initiative allows me to better drive my own project and not have to constantly depend on the progress of others. Learning how to prioritize has enabled me to make decisions and tradeoffs quickly and become a more efficient designer.

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Staff Council Report: How is the College reacting to growth in terms of staffing and budgeting?


On December 7, 2016, President Lorne Buchman and CFO Rich Haluschak joined a regular meeting of Staff Council to discuss questions posed to them regarding the impact of the College’s growth on staff. The resulting discussion was candid and informative. Lorne assured the group that the College is committed to increasing staff as necessary to accommodate growth and that staff should be compensated for increased workloads and/or new duties. In response to the questions, Rich informed the Council:

  • A total of 23 staff positions have been added or upgraded as a direct response to enrollment growth since 2011.
  • Certain departments, such as Facilities and Educational Media, have had a spike in overtime since 2011. The College is currently reviewing needs in those departments to make sure they are adequately staffed.
  • Departmental budgets are automatically increased when a staff member receives a salary increase.

Both Lorne and Rich stressed that staff who have been shouldering increased workloads and/or responsibilities should be compensated for those increases and employees who believe their workloads or duties have increased beyond the scope of their job descriptions or expectations should be discussing these issues with their supervisors. In response to a question, Lorne acknowledged that the College doesn’t have a process for staff to present their concerns outside the normal departmental lines but he noted that staff can always reach out to Human Resources.

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Student Spotlight: Alvin Oei on building your professional network

Alvin Oei

Environmental Design student Alvin Oei is busy building his professional network while managing the challenging workload that is an ArtCenter education. He arranged for a line-up of luminaries to gather at ArtCenter on September 23 for an industry panel on the future of themed entertainment. Alum and former Disney imagineer Geoff Puckett moderated the panel that included legendary Disney imagineer and alum Bob Gurr; alum and principal of The Hettema Group, Phil Hettema; Dave Cobb, principal at Thinkwell; Entertainment Design chair Guillaume Aretos and imagineer Chris Beatty.

If you missed it, here is some of the wisdom shared with the audience:

  • Phil Hettema: “New technology comes along every 10 years. The secret sauce to the business of themed entertainment is that it is one of the last places you can go to have an experience with someone else.”
  • Bob Gurr: “If you’ve been asked to do something you’ve never done before, the answer is YES. If you can think and you’re curious you can figure out anything.”
  • Dave Cobb: “Completely unfettered blue sky is a myth. This is a highly collaborative artform that business and management are a big part of.”
  • Chris Beatty: “We’re all salesmen, we need to convince everyone they have a dog in the hunt.”

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Goodbye Dotted Line, hello ArtCenter News!


After a brief hiatus, we are restarting this blog with a new emphasis on connecting and celebrating our ever-expanding two campus community. ArtCenter News is where we will exalt our student successes, laud our faculty accomplishments and discover our staff talents. While anyone can read and follow this blog, and we encourage all to do so, it is primarily a place for the ArtCenter community to come together. It is a forum for us to revel in what makes ArtCenter unique, acquaint ourselves with each other and our programs and offerings, and discuss issues we face. We may be spread out physically between two campuses and many buildings, but we are a community and ArtCenter News is a place for us to convene electronically. Everything that relates to what is happening at the College is relevant. We will post stories about students, faculty, staff and events, as well as important issues that affect how we learn, how we teach and how we work.

We invite—and encourage—all members of the ArtCenter community to submit ideas, tips and first-person tales. Please send your news, thoughts and stories to

All posts on ArtCenter News can also be read on our college intranet, Inside ArtCenter. Stories that are relevant to both internal and external audiences will continue to be told in Dot magazine online, which resides on our main website, There you will also find a gathering place for posts about both ArtCenter and the larger art and design world, which are curated at ArtCenter Now. The ArtCenter story is also told through our compelling alumni video series, Change Makers, which lives on our YouTube channel, along with other video assets.

In addition to reading our stories, we encourage everyone to share in the conversation through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. And you can catch a slice of ArtCenter life by following our Snapchat feed.