College of Design Welcomes New Interim DHA Department Head

The College of Design is pleased to introduce our new Interim Design, Housing, and Apparel (DHA) Department Head, Professor Hye-Young Kim. With a wealth of experience from her previous position as the Program Director for Retail Merchandising, Kim plans to leverage her new role to advance equity in education and promote interdisciplinary collaboration and research. Learn more about Kim in our interview with her below.

How will you leverage your experience as a design educator in your new position as DHA Department Head?

For the past 12 years, the diversity of talent and expertise represented throughout the College of Design has provided me with the opportunity for unique collaborations both within and outside of my department. My experience as a (broadly defined) design educator stems from the intersection between participatory epistemology and design thinking. 

In my new role as the Interim Department Head of DHA, I am moving one step further and not only seeing education as a tool for intellectual growth but as a vehicle for social change. As design educators, we have a moral obligation to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in our practice, and in society. 

How will you develop the existing design curriculum? 

For the past few years, the College of Design has been working on adding a common core freshman experience and curriculum and I am a strong proponent of this universal experience.

Through a common core curriculum, we can not only increase and enrich courses addressing diversity, social responsibility, and sustainability but our students can learn about their role both as future designers and as agents of change. A common first-year experience would also help break down “silo” mentality early on and develop a sense of purpose in a broader context. The expected benefits of this student-centered approach are endless; in their first year, students can explore their identity and possible career paths while establishing interpersonal relationships, maintaining personal wellness, contributing to the community, and advancing DEI.

What do you hope to accomplish as department head this academic year?

During 2020-2021 my goal is to align DHA with the college, and ultimately with the University by: (a) advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion; (b) preserving the health and safety of faculty, staff, and students; and (c) ensuring strong financial stewardship.

Finally, in the interim, DHA will be working hard to leverage its research-intensive culture. DHA has a great group of researchers who can build and enhance their funded research programs to support graduate education and the financial sustainability of their undergraduate programs. I am very optimistic about this.   

What do you find most exciting about your new position? 

There is undeniable uncertainty right now in higher education overall across the nation. This macro-level uncertainty may be a challenge to us. But ironically, the uncertainty also provides an opportunity to get out of the very conventions that restrict our creative thinking. When things do not follow a strict pattern, we come to know our most creative selves. I am excited about this “creative” possibility. Great examples are DHA faculty’s excellent research projects in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What would you say distinguishes design education at the University? 

We are a design college at a land grant institution located in an urban environment. This is our unique value proposition. Rather than tightly structured curriculum that may limit students’ freedom to explore, we provide more powerful experiential learning opportunities for self-discoveries through collaborations with our community and professional industry stakeholders.

What are your final thoughts as you look ahead to the fall semester?

Given the scale and complexity of the social and environmental challenges today, our students need to build knowledge and capacity beyond their own field. There are untapped opportunities in DHA to explore interdisciplinary collaboration in research, teaching, and outreach. These opportunities can mutually benefit students, faculty, and the public if we are willing to invest in building connections and taking initiatives. 

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