The scope of design is rapidly expanding in leaps and bounds. Today’s designers feel a responsibility to address environmental, social and economic needs with their work more than ever before. In light of the changes taking place in recent years, Art Center has been developing a comprehensive design curriculum and its importance has been underscored in the school’s five-year strategic plan.
Art Center students Jessie Kawata and Yan Kramsky are co-presidents of the student-run group EcoCouncil, which has been largely responsible for helping green the College and introduce sustainable initiatives throughout the campus and curriculum.
The two were featured keynote speakers at last week’s California Higher Education Sustainability Conference. Together, they led the final presentation of the conference, sharing their perspectives on sustainable design and reflections on the event. Earlier in the conference, Vice President of Designmatters Mariana Amatullo participated in a panel discussion moderated by Associate Professor and Director of Sustainability Initiatives Heidrun Mumper-Drumm titled Embedding Sustainability into Existing Curriculum.
Kawata and Kramsky took some time out of their busy schedules—they graduate next month!—to talk with Dotted Line about EcoCouncil, comprehensive design and what they hope people took away from their presentation.
Dotted Line: Just what is the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference?
Jessie Kawata: Students, educators, staff and administrators from community colleges, four-year colleges, public and private schools come together to talk about sustainability and various Climate Action Plan (CAP) initiatives in higher education. It was held in Long Beach.
We were one of the few private colleges to attend, and we were the only featured speakers from a private school—not to mention Art Center was the only art and design college present. So it was a real honor for both of us to be involved.
Dotted Line: How did the opportunity for you two to be keynote speakers come about?
Yan Kramsky: Heidrun Mumper-Drumm suggested that we apply. It’s funny, we didn’t realize we were applying to be keynote speakers, just workshop speakers, so we were surprised and honored to be selected as keynotes.
We have experience with sustainability initiatives from a grassroots perspective through our work with EcoCouncil, and I think we are the types of students that they were looking for, who could share our specific experiences.