MFA Design for Social Innovation at SVA: the first born.

26 March 12

When parents have their first child, there is a high probability that friends and family will make an appropriately effusive fuss about it. People show up to celebrate, bring gifts, toast with champagne, and everyone dotes on the new arrival as if there has never before been an event quite so remarkable.

Such is the excitement we feel about our first cohort of students in this ground-breaking masters program. After months (could it be nine?) of recruiting, Skyping, answering questions, reviewing applications, following up on missing bits of crucial information, reading essays and hours spent deliberating the perfect combination of brains, commitment, talent and diversity, we have chosen our very first students. They will be the only class to have the faculty all to themselves for a year; likewise the only ones to use the brand new space and tools without having to even think about sharing. Most important, they will be the only class to receive the exclusive attention of our entire community – advisors, lecturers, clients, mentors.

If we do say so, our first class is extraordinary: From an extremely impressive group of candidates, we have chosen these future colleagues and collaborators from many different cultures and geographies – Indonesia, Pakistan, Kenya, Canada, Germany, Denmark, Korea, Mexico, Kuwait, Australia, California, Maine, Washington, DC and Brooklyn(!). They have degrees from some of the best schools in the world, like Vassar, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, U Penn and Tufts to name but a few. They will apply a breadth of skills to solving the challenges we face as a global society; as filmmakers, interaction, product and graphic designers, architects, landscape architects, choreographers, engineers and photographers. They all have in common a deep commitment to social innovation, the talent and character to be leaders of innovation and impact, and the conviction that design is the integrating force that can help realize our potential to create sustainable change.

Non first-born children, a position I know well, typically inspire a congratulatory phone call or card. They turn out well for the opposite reason – clarity, from the start, that the world does not revolve around them, the ability to share, and early acceptance of the fact that they had better learn to take care of themselves.

But that’s the next classes’ lesson. For this year we will spoil our first arrivals, and devote all the energy needed to ensure that they succeed fully at their brilliant dreams.

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