Academic Work & Activities

Teaching Philosophy

Thinking Broadly, Keeping It Real

I see design as a broad canvas in which many perspectives and disciplines can interact and create something new and beneficial. Anthropology, business, technology, ecology – all, and more, can bring beneficial ideas to design, and can benefit from being influenced by design. The imperative of teaching students for a post-disciplinary workplace becomes more important as each year passes. The walls are coming down between disciplines, and it’s vital that students depart academia with the ability to move seamlessly through a project with collaborative teamwork as a core competency.

I have long been a leader at teaching in a way that brings students from different disciplines together, and bringing the working professional perspective into the classroom. (I was awarded the prestigious Educator of the Year Award in 2009 by the Industrial Designers Society of America in recognition of my work in these areas.) Some examples:

  • Developed and then for 10 years taught a course that brought together industrial design undergraduate students with MBA and Masters of Engineering students from UC Berkeley. Co-taught with professors from the Haas School of Business and the graduate Engineering program.
  • Course projects with corporate sponsorship and collaboration from companies such as Ford Motor Company, Proctor & Gamble, Specialized Bicycles, Bell Sports, Tupperware.
  • Bringing in outside experts for portfolio reviews and critiques from such companies as Google, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, IDEO, Lunar, Oracle, Cisco, Plantronics, BRG Sports, Whipsaw, Astro Studios, and many more. I’m creative when it comes to making connections in industry that will be helpful to students.

Often this means taking students out of their comfort zone in an academic setting, but I think it's critical that we expose students to working in interdisciplinary teams where they must solve the needs of real people, as that's what they will be asked to do once in the working world. Giving students the tools, methods, and confidence to engage in these types of integrated design processes and activities are central to my teaching philosophy. The process of conceptualization, designing, building, testing, and then looping around again to start the process over exemplifies an iterative process that also supports the best-practice learning methods for students today. I continually try to bring the "real world" into academia, drawing on my years of experience in industry and my continued close ties to designers in consulting, start up, and corporate teams.

Solving real problems that are basic to large populations of people is vital for the future designer. While it is necessary for design students today to learn how to conceptualize solutions for the modern digital world, it is also important for them to be introduced to types of problems that affect millions of individuals, and in some cases billions. For many people on our planet, having access to basic needs like food, shelter, water, healthcare, and education is still a challenge. These are not easy problems and they are the type of problems that also require systems thinking and strategic approaches and solutions. Projects need to focus on sustainable solutions from both a lifecycle perspective, and from more focused strategies such as materials choices, production methods, and distribution models. 

Teaching and Research Themes

  • Design as a means to improve society. Designing with, not for.
  • Designing for sustainability.
  • Team-based projects, cross-disciplinary and cross-departmental and cross-institutional teams.
  • International collaborations, study abroad.

Fundraising, Partnerships

I have extensive experience at developing grants and proposals, arranging industry partnerships, and I have a strong national and international professional network. Grants have been secured from organizations including:

  • NSF (National Science Foundation)
  • VentureWell (formerly NCIIA)
  • The Knight Foundation
  • LeGrand Group in France
  • Ford Motor Company
  • Fostered and secured endowments from SJSU industrial design alumni

Companies and organizations that I have brought in to collaborate on student projects include Proctor & Gamble, Specialized Bicycles, Mattel, City of San José, Ecology Action, Ford Motor Company, and many more.

Courses Taught

Below is a partial list of courses that I have taught:

  • DSID 130 Sustainable Design (Course designer and professor)

  • DSID 124 Design for All (Course designer and professor)

  • DSID 128 Special Projects in ID (Course designer and professor); Capstone Design Studio

  • DSID 125 Advanced Industrial Design

  • DSID 123 Intermediate Industrial Design

  • DSID 123A, 125A, 128A: Portfolio & Professional Development (Course designer and professor

  • DSID 141 Product Design III (Course designer)

  • DSID 21 Visualization I (Course designer and professor)

  • DSID 41 Materials & Manufacturing I (Course designer and professor)

  • DSID 143 Advanced Materials, Processes, and Technology (Course designer and professor)

  • DSID 122 Critical & Contextual Studies: Industrial Design (Course designer)

  • ID2 User Centric Design (Course designer and professor)

  • IS: Product to Package (Course designer and professor)

  • IS: New Product Development (Course designer and professor) (collaborative studio course with UC Berkeley & CCA