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l'esprit d'escalier

To each of the members of the search committee I would like to follow up with thanks and take a few moments to elaborate on several topics that were discussed in the interview on Wednesday.

l'esprit d'escalier is a French term used to describe the situation of thinking of the perfect reply too late. In English it translates to “the spirit of the stairs”, the term comes from a situation where you are at the bottom of the stairs after you have left a meeting or gathering and suddenly the reply pops into your head clearly. It is the result of an idea needing time to incubate.


Working collaboratively with a team to organize this conference took two years of planning

I was asked about collaborations I had successfully worked in the past. I wanted to mention the following national conference. From 2011-2013, I was the Vice President for Biennial Conference for an organization called Foundations in Art: Theory and Education (FATE). In this role, I was the Conference Director for the 2013 FATE National Conference in Savannah, GA. My responsibilities included: scheduling over 400 presentations in three days, all financial negotiations with the conference hotel, securing Tim Rollins and K.O.S. to be the keynote speaker, overseeing all aspects of the Juried Members Exhibition and having to manage this all with a team of three people and a budget of $120,000.

Taking 170 first year art and design students to Chicago for the annual field trip

The above image of the annual field trip Chicago is a picture of the Art Institute. Why, you ask, is Michigan Avenue so packed? The Cubs won the world series and they decided to hold the parade on a Friday. The same day as the scheduled field trip. 170 first year design students in a parade of 5 million people!

Even the Art Institute got in on the fun!

I spoke about my first job in the United Arab Emirates but I felt I should elaborate for the committees sake here on this blog. 20 years ago, I took a risk when I applied for and was offered a job in the School of Architecture of Design at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) in the United Arab Emirates. I joined the faculty at AUS as a rookie straight out of graduate school in an educational experiment. AUS was the first co-educational University in the Arabian Gulf and the building where my office would be was still under construction and not a single student had graduated from SA&D yet. Working with a team of four faculty, we formed the interdisciplinary Foundations curriculum. Collaborative thinking and governing is of critical importance when it comes to curriculum, program development and accreditation. I helped to lead the design of the new curriculum, we developed the written materials and in 2004 we successfully guided the program through the accreditation process for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. My team also helped to achieve accreditation through the Commission for Academic Accreditation in the UAE and professional accreditation by the National Architectural Accrediting Board for the Bachelor of Architecture program of the College of Architecture, Art and Design. This is the first program outside of North America to receive this prestigious accreditation. NAAB is the only organization authorized to accredit professional degree programs in architecture in the United States.

Describing Design Thinking

Describe design thinking to a variety of audiences, I felt I moved on before I fully answered your question. How would I describe Design Thinking to a 1st grader, a High School student and a Professor. I would explain that there are 5 stages of design thinking: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test to each group/person. What I would change would be the examples used so that the process was relatable to each age group. First graders would better understand design thinking if the subject matter was how to improve their local playground for their friends. High school students would better understand design thinking if the subject matter was how minimize their time spent doing homework and maximizing test score results. Professors would better understand if the subject matter was related to their graduate students research problems.


Making. We didn’t get around to the topic of making and building or rapid prototyping in yesterday‘s interview. The new building will be key in fulfilling that part of the mission. I also believe forming partnerships with all of the other maker spaces on campus will be essential in becoming the leader for rapid prototyping and thinking through the act of making on this campus.

My take away from Wednesday...

My biggest challenge will be acclimating to a new work environment and new work expectations. Essentially getting my feet under me. The most exciting part would be having the opportunity to help build a variety of programs over the next couple of years as the Siebel Center for Design truly establishes its presence and its impact on campus, regionally, nationally and ultimately internationally.

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