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Resilience Convergence


Resilience Map designed by Eugene Park; photo credit Karl Engebretson

Resilience Convergence was a one-day event held on November 22nd 2014 at the University of Minnesota bringing resilience experts together in a program to learn about the resiliency-focused work going on in Minnesota and explore connections of expertise through interactive exercises, with the aim to develop a more connected and innovative resilience research and education at the University of Minnesota.

What is Resilience? Resilience Convergence drew on the definition proposed by the Rockefeller Foundation: Resilience is the capacity of individuals, communities and systems to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of stress and shocks, and even transform when conditions require it.

Participants were invited pre-workshop to offer content (focus of resilience work, geographic scales of work, disruptions and time scales of the work) that was included in a Resilience Map designed by Eugene Park, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design from the College of Design, Unveiled at the event, the Map showed each participant and expert's work factored in the growing body of resilience work. The Map is intended to become an important tool to align collective efforts at the University of Minnesota around resilience.


Richard Graves speaks at the Resilience Convergence conference; photo credit Karl Engebretson

Sponsored by the Office of Vice President of Research from the College of Design, welcome remarks were made by VP of Research Brian Herman, Dean Tom Fisher and the event was facilitated by Richard Graves, Director of the Center for Sustainable Building Research.

The first part of the event was a series of Fish Bowl Conversations framed under the overaching question of: How do you define the challenge of resilience?

#1: What does it mean in your work to create "rapid rebound" or the capacity to re-establish function, re-organize and avoid long term disruptions? (Participants: Fred Rose, Ann Masten, Rolf Weberg)

#2: How do communities create flexibility or the ability to change, evolve, and adapt to alternative strategies in the face of disaster? (Participants: Elizabeth Wilson, Lacy Shelby, Patrick Nunnally)

#3: What types of failures ripple across a system? How do organizations create feedback loops that sense, provide foresight and allow for new solutions to design resilient systems? (Participants: Tom Fisher, Patrick Hamilton, Dr. Carissa Schively-Slotterback)

This was followed by Speed dating and a Splendid Table event: What assets do we have in our community to build resilience? How do you combine diverse perspectives to create resilience projects? (facilitated by Richard Graves, Tom Fisher, Renee Cheng and Maura Donovan)

Attendees paired up with other persons who shared their area of focus for resilience to discuss similarities and differences with their work, and assets in the community and at the university, types of research, classes and projects to build community resilience.


Resilience Map designed by Eugene Park; photo credit Karl Engebretson

The question of resilience has come to the fore in many circles, with a range of interpretations from environmental resilience to resiliency in mental health. When Structures for Inclusion, the Public Interest Design conference declares a theme of 'Resilience of Mind, Body, and Spirit' for its 2015 meeting on April 11 - 12 in Detroit, it must mean that Resilience and PID are intertwined and here to stay. What are your thoughts on the intersection of PID and resilience? Tweet @UMN_PID with your answer!

Written by Virajita Singh, a Sr. Research Fellow and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the College of Design, University of Minnesota

Search for Shelter

This past weekend, over 70 volunteer designers came together in Rapson Hall on the U of M campus for the 29th annual Search for Shelter, a weekend-long design charrette run by AIA-Minnesota that provides pro-bono design services to non-profit organizations focusing on affordable housing in Minnesota.

The event brings professional architects, landscape architects, interior designers, and students together for three days to create a design proposal and present it to the non-profit client. While Search for Shelter began as a nationwide event almost thirty years ago, AIA Minnesota is now one of the few AIA chapters from across the country to still run the event as originally intended.

This year's Search for Shelter began on the evening of Friday, Jan. 30th, with an opening address by some of the organizers of the Search for Shelter and members of AIA Minnesota's Housing Advocacy Committee, followed by a video presentation of the 2014 Affordable Housing Design Award Recipient, Clare Midtown, an affordable residence for people living with HIV/AIDS. The volunteers then split up into eight different groups, which they would stay in for the remainder of the weekend, to meet with their client. The client then explained the project, the parameters of the design proposal they were looking for, and then answered any questions that the design group had.

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Site visit with Search for Shelter 2015 AEON group

The group I was a part of worked with a client from the non-profit developer AEON to develop an initial design proposal for an affordable housing apartment complex for recently homeless youth and mixed-income tenants on a nearly block long site on University Avenue in St. Paul. After touring the site with our client early Saturday morning, we set down to the task of brainstorming and designing, working together to create a respectful building concept that prioritized AEON's goals of fostering a sense of community, instilling a feeling of security, and incorporating strategies to make the building more sustainable. The completed proposal scheme, involving a set of lively rooftop terraces that cascades down and around the building form, was presented to the larger group and to the client on Sunday at noon, and can be seen in it's entirety at this link.

The Search for Shelter was a tremendous experience, offering an opportunity to work with professional designers, for real clients, on an actual project, and represents a wonderful chance to use my skills as a designer to help those in need.

The other non-profit groups assisted during the 2015 Search for Shelter are:
Alafia Place
Alliance Housing Inc.
Anna Marie's Alliance
Avenues for Homeless Youth
Rebuilding Together TC
Salvation Army
Women's Advocates

Tiny Houses by and for the Homeless in Madison, Wisconsin

WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Editor's Note: The following article, written by Pat Shneider, about the building of a village of tiny houses for the homeless by Occupy Madison, originally appeared in Madison's The Cap Times in July. Since then, the movement gained national attention from articles in Al Jazeera America and The Huffington Post, and has seen a number of similar projects pop up as far away as Portland, Oregon, Texas, and New York. The village in Madison was officially opened in November, just in time for the holidays, with four people moving in to the three existing homes with plans for more on the way.

Keith Valiquette says it was the sense of community that attracted him to Occupy Madison's tiny house movement. And he predicts that others, even people who can afford regular-sized houses, will be joining him.

Valiquette, 65, now homeless after a long working career and owning a business as well as houses, is in line to live in the third tiny house constructed by Occupy Madison volunteers. His dog, Chip, will move in with him.

He and the occupants of other tiny houses built by Occupy Madison plan to park them on the nonprofit organization's east-side property later this summer, once toilet and shower facilities are installed in a former auto body shop on the site. The group has city approval to park up to nine tiny houses around the main building, which will also have a common lounge space and a workshop for construction of the houses. Community gardening space will be up front and visible on the one-third acre site, while the tiny houses will be located behind a six-foot fence.

"This is not just for homeless," says Valiquette. "What we're doing with tiny homes is going to be a godsend to the middle class in the future. This is entry level housing for young families, college student."

There's no question tiny houses have captured plenty of attention. There are a half-dozen projects in other cities similar to Occupy Madison's, aiming to provide permanent housing for homeless people. There's also a growing movement of people downsizing to smaller housing to live more simply and cheaply. The movement has generated online communities, books, movies and a tiny house conference in North Carolina this spring with another planned next year in Portland, Ore., where tiny houses are a hot trend.


A typical tiny house, from Occupy Madison

Tiny houses are not only more affordable and lead to more sustainable lifestyles, they build community by bringing people closer to one another, literally, say enthusiasts.

"We've got to quit building these monstrous boxes to house people. It only separates us. I'd just as soon see people at all levels of society living in these tiny villages. I hope down the road our village isn't just homeless people," Valiquette says. "I hope we're part of the larger community, not an enclave."

Community within the village is fostered by the common goals of Occupy Madison members in constructing and managing it through rules adopted and enforced by the group. A sense of community with neighbors beyond the fence that will surround the village may be more difficult.

Occupy Madison's revolutionary development plan - which the city will continue to monitor through numerous conditions placed on zoning approval - got a mixed reception from neighbors.

Some welcomed it as an innovative experiment in affordable housing. Others worked to get the plan rejected by city officials, saying that allowing it would make the Emerson East neighborhood the only one in the city where building codes are not enforced, thereby lowering property values.

And although the neighborhood debate included suggestions that formerly homeless people living in the village would be lawless or dangerous, Valiquette says he didn't take that personally.

"I was a homeowner," he says. "I have no animosity toward those who opposed us. It's a little self-interested, but it's understandable."

Yet as far as concerns over the value of their housing investments, "the banksters in the world have a bigger effect than we do. We're peanuts," Valiquette says.

Neighbors who have supported the village "see the bigger picture," he says. "They are why I am part of this. We as a society need to come together again."


The interior of a completed house, from Occupy Madison

Brenda Konkel, an Occupy Madison board member, says neighbors already are volunteering their time and donating things like flowers, which were planted on the property last week.

Konkel says that sustainability features, like the houses being built of largely recycled materials and the community gardens, are attracting neighbors to find out more about the planned village.

"And they like that you can do it yourself," she says of the tiny houses in which recipients invest "sweat equity" along with other volunteers.

Long term, "we hope to find a bigger piece of land for a bigger village, with more opportunity for urban agriculture. But to find that in a place with public transportation will be hard," Konkel said.

She estimates that Occupy Madison has been contacted from people in a couple hundred communities asking for their plans for building the houses and information on related issues like the zoning impediments to houses that are smaller than codes allow.

"Eventually, I'd like to develop a national list-serv on what we did here," to share information, she says.

Valiquette says he values the opportunity to get to know people from all walks of life that he has gained through Occupy Madison and hopes the lure of the tiny house movement opens people's eyes to the variety of people who find themselves "homeless."

"Homeless people are as varied as all the other people in your neighborhood," he says. They are the people couch surfing with friends or staying with relatives, and the people sleeping on the porch of the City-County Building.

"I'm not just building a tiny home. I'm building a community," he says.

From The Cap Times, July 19th, 2014: "Tiny house occupant drawn to Occupy Madison village out of desire for community" by Pat Shneider. Read the entire article here, and learn more about Occupy Madison's Tiny House village at

Higher Ground


Photo credit: Evan Hildebrand

One early October morning, riding along one of the many bike trails that crisscross the city, I look up as the still-cold sunlight falls onto a bank of windows emerging from a tan-colored building, pointing out into the bike path. The view is commanding, and the view that those windows command, the view behind me, is just as arresting: the whole of downtown Minneapolis, newly lit in the crisp fall air. One would be forgiven for thinking that those windows belong to a luxury apartment building, not unlike those I passed not moments ago. But they do not. They belong to a homeless shelter, designed by Cermak Rhoades Architects.

A bit of background: Cermak Rhoades Architects, founded by Terri Cermak and Todd Rhoades around 20 years ago, deals mostly with what associate Chris Wegsheid called "supportive housing": designing affordable housing for marginalized populations who need some assistance in one form or another, such as the recently homeless, mentally ill, or substance abusers. Their innovative architectural responses to pressing social concerns have led to the firm receiving two out of the three AIA-Minnesota Affordable Housing Design Awards granted since the award's inception in 2012, as well as and admiration from their peers involved in public interest design in the Twin Cities.


Photo credit: Evan Hildebrand

The building I'm looking up at, known as Higher Ground, was designed for Catholic Charities and meant to replace an overcrowded homeless shelter nearby, but takes the potential much further than a simple room with cots on the floor. It combines a temporary shelter with longer-term housing solutions: the building represents a bottom-to-top gradient in terms of increasing independence, privacy, and domesticity, a layering meant to help to ease a transition out of homelessness. The bottom floor houses a large overnight shelter, with raised bunk beds for over 120 people, as well as meal services, medical help, and a computer lab, as well as a large expanse of windows that flood the room in natural light. Above, the second floor holds a pay-to-stay shelter, booked in advance, and marked by increased privacy and security. The freedom, privacy, and space afforded to residents only increases from there, with the upper floors holding more permanent housing, with SRO (single-room occupancy) units and, on the very top floor, full efficiency apartments. The design of the floors also reflects the feelings of each change from temporary to permanent housing, becoming increasingly domestic, from the greater use of metal and concrete for the bottom floor shelter to the subdued homeliness of the upper apartments.

Higher Ground is like few other homeless shelters in the Twin Cities, but it shouldn't be. It shows the dedication, intelligence, and sheer intelligence that Cermak Rhoades have brought to bear to their work with supportive housing, and this Minnesotan metropolis is better for it. Perhaps when I ride this way again, a few more luxury apartments will be replaced with homeless shelters and affordable housing. And, if they're all designed as well as Higher Ground, I won't even notice the difference.

Editor's Note: This essay was originally a submission to the Berkeley Prize Essay Competition. Although the deadline for submissions to the 2015 competition has now closed, you can find out more about the Berkeley Prize here.

Public In Practice: The Pipeline Problem

Editor's Note: This blogpost is part of a series taken from Public In Practice: A Field Guide to Public Interest Design in the Twin Cities. The series focuses on the conclusion of the book, a look at some of the issues in public interest design brought up by those doing this work in the Twin Cities. This installment focuses on "the pipeline problem."

There is no question that public interest design is a growing field. There are more and more organizations practicing some form of public interest design, more and more exposure to the field through media, social or otherwise, and more and more students who are interested in doing this kind of work for a living. And that's where things get complicated. While the number of students and young architects wanting to do public interest design is increasing, the way the go about doing so is still very unclear. Compared with a traditional path into architecture, with established firms, internships, and licensing, starting a career in public interest design is much more difficult. According to Thomas Fisher, Dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, "that's one of our major challenges right now, which is the so called 'pipeline problem,' which is that there are a lot of students who are graduating and really eager to do this work, but are unsure of how to start."

Take the example of Laurie McGinley, designer at ESG Architects. After graduating with an undergraduate architecture degree in 2000 and working in a firm for a year, her desire to help others and make a difference in the world led her to join the Peace Corps, after which she figured she would go to grad school. "What ended up happening is that what I learned while being a volunteer about how the rest of the world lives made me actually averse to the field of architecture," McGinley said; "I kind of went as far away from it as I thought I possibly seemed like design was something wealthy countries spent money on and I couldn't see the practical applications of it." After not being able to connect her time in the Peace Corps with any aspect of her architectural education, McGinley spent seven years working as a web designer - before going back to grad school and getting a job at ESG, an architectural firm. So what drove her back to the field of architecture? McGinley, like many others, was inspired by the ideas of public interest design: "The reason I went back to grad school is that I finally started to see the connections of how design can help people whose babies are dying, who don't have roads, who don't have water...that's where I see my future career trying to go," she said. However, even newly armed with a renewed passion for design and architecture, McGinley says it's still incredibly hard to see where to go next, or how her passion for design that helps others can turn into an actual career. McGinley explained, "I have this question of, 'All right, I'm on what?'"

Dean Fisher sees firsthand the interest coming from students in this field, but he also sees a great demand for this kind of work from the rest of the world, and that, he says, is "the kind of paradox of it. While the route is less clear, the need is much greater. We just need to develop the institutional structure that allows this to happen." Fisher also views the recent Latrobe Prize report, "Wisdom From
 The Field: Public Interest Architecture In Practice," as a tool in helping lessen the pipeline problem. The report, which involved a massive survey of design professionals across the nation, outlined different approaches to practicing public interest design, and offered suggestions on how to support and grow the profession from within large institutions like the AIA or the NCARB.

Interested in reading more? Read the entire book here, or see the embedded link above.

2014 Fall Gathering


James Wheeler leads discussion on "What Next?" at the 2014 Public Interest Design Fall Gathering [photo credit Virajita Singh]

The 2014 public interest design Fall Gathering, which took place October 29th, was meant to bring both students and faculty interested in public interest design together to meet, network, get an update on latest college PID developments. Students and faculty were also there to engage in a facilitated discussion on what PID means to our college community and ideas for what should happen going forward.

The meeting, facilitated by James Wheeler, began with attendees sharing "What I know and What I want to know," from which various PID questions emerged. The discussion then followed the "Pro-Action Café" Method - where participants rotated around to different facilitators, each with their own question to focus on - to tackle three main topics as generated by the opening questions. The session then concluded with a wrap up as a large group, discussing steps to take: what now and what next? The following are just a few highlights and takeaways from the meeting

- The session led by Dean Tom Fisher, looking at defining PID, identified nine key words related to how PID is defined at the U of M: Community, engaged, problem-solving, process, cultural immersion, impact, with, people, and dignity.

- Kristine Miller, who led the group examining the question of "how can we better serve the community?", looked at ideas about the NDSA loan forgiveness and how the school can help students continue their projects outside of school to create ongoing relationships with the community.

- James Wheeler led a discussion around creating a PID curriculum, leading to ideas about Academia, Practice, and Theory all leading into and building off each other, and brainstorming ideas like "what if PID was part of every course?" or "what if there were real clients for every project?"

- The session looking at how to structure an educational program to prepare students for working in PID, led by Jim Lutz, examining what skills and values are needed in PID that might not be as apparent in a normal/existing design education. This led to a discussion on the importance of teaching ethics in a PID education, like empathy, cross-cultural competence, and the value of "street-scape" design and real world experience.


Post-It Notes from the session on "how can we better serve the community?" facilitated by Kristine Miller.

Blitz Building with Habitat for Humanity

Otto Habitat Blitz 077.jpg
Blitz building in action; photo credit Nathaniel Tollefson

I have been volunteering for Habitat for the last 10 years. I am a carpenter by trade and they were looking for volunteers. I was invited to do a 'blitz' build in West Virginia by my brother and his wife. I did not know what a 'blitz' build was but soon found out. The local chapter of Habitat partners with a group of traveling Blitzers who help build complete houses in one weekend to energize the local volunteering force. This build was two houses side by side is some of the most beautiful hillside riparian country I have seen. West Virginia is truly stunning. We built two houses in one weekend working side by side with volunteers, homeowners, inmates and local carpenters. When each house was complete before the last piece of siding would be nailed at the peak of a gable everyone who worked on the house would sign it. We would all gather around and support the ladder as the homeowner nailed that piece on high up on gable. Not a dry eye on site, everyone cried, whooped and hollered. I was hooked.

For the last 5-6 years I have been trying to do the same type of build but on a local scale in Minnesota. My aunt is the CFO of Habitat for Humanity St. Louis County chapter and has put me in touch with the local president Nathan Thompson. St. Louis County includes Duluth and areas straight north of there. We have done a blitz build every summer and met some great people. Nathan gets the foundation in and the site prepped before we arrive then we show up and give it our all for 30 hrs in two days and usually have a house built with just the interior left to do. I like to stay an additional day or two and enjoy the woods in the surrounding areas, right by BWCA.

This coming winter we will be doing a slightly different build. I am currently looking for volunteers to help design a habitat house to be built in the summer 2015. I am specifically looking at fellow undergraduate and graduate students interested in making a difference. SLCH4H is interested in lowering energy costs for their homeowners so we will be looking at foundation insulation, wall sections, and possible site orientations. The houses are small and on a tight budget which adds to the design challenge. Very soon you will see postings around Rapson Hall for meeting times and places. I am looking forward to working with the team that develops out of the process. Come to the meetings and sign up! As an additional incentive the hours working on Habitat count towards your IDP.

Nathaniel Tollefson
NL Tollefson Inc.
LIC# BC681638

Otto Habitat Blitz 056.jpgBlitz building in action; photo credit Nathaniel Tollefson

Otto Habitat Blitz 123.jpgBlitz building in action; photo credit Nathaniel Tollefson

Dwell + DLGYAD Live! - From the National to the Local

Design Like You Give a Damn: Live! from Architecture for Humanity and Dwell Magazine; Photo by Virajita Singh

Last month Dwell Magazine held the inaugural East Coast offering of its successful design event in New York. Architecture for Humanity (AFH) partnered with Dwell on Design NY for its 5th annual Design Like You Give a Damn Live! humanitarian design conference. With three days of programming, the concurrent events created interesting opportunities for the mainstream and fast-becoming-mainstream field of public interest design (PID) to intersect.

The conference kicked off with an inspiring keynote presentation by Daniel Libeskind who shared his groundbreaking ideas and innovative work. This was followed by stimulating breakout sessions over the next two days covering a variety of topics: emerging trends ("The New Malleable Office"), technology ("Technology and Material Innovation"), urban development and public spaces ("Between Civic and Residential Architecture"), and interior design ("Living Large in Small Spaces"). A product showcase featured Blu Homes, Raydoor, IKEA, Humanscale, Vitra, Volvo, Marvin Windows and Doors, among others. An onsite bookstore organized by Dwell and Designers & Books was a personal favorite.

AFH's sessions were very well attended, often with standing room only attendance. The Design Open Mic event featured national and global architectural projects, including work from Mexico, Chile, Afghanistan, Israel, Philippines, Turkey, Hungary, Germany, and elsewhere. It was heartening to see so many public interest design projects from around the world. As the PID movement grows, it's time for stakeholders to share best practices, including those pertaining to design with other cultures and ways of community engagement. This is a conversation in which all sectors -- community, government, academia, and practice -- should be engaged.

DLYGAD Live Speaker
DLYGAD Live Conference, Unknown Speaker; Photo credit Virajita Singh

From the University of Minnesota College of Design's perspective it was great to connect with a number of staff from AFH who have been great partners with our faculty and PID initiatives over the last few years -- Eric Cesal, Darren Gill, Jacob Ehrenberg, Audrey Gallo and others. There are many synergies to be found in the numerous projects with which AFH is involved. As new executive director Eric Cesal stated in a recent interview, his goal is to "position Architecture for Humanity as a teacher and mentor". Opportunities abound for collaboration.

At our Public Interest Design Fall Gathering last week, many of the students and faculty present were in agreement that given the enthusiastic interest in PID across the College, support at the administrative and faculty level, and being in a region known for its philanthropy and humanitarianism, we are uniquely situated. With our local, national, and global partners, we are excited to be involved in this work. Stay tuned!

Virajita Singh is Sr. Research Fellow and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the College of Design, University of Minnesota.

Public In Practice: PID in the Twin Cities

Public In Practice Infographic.jpg
Above: Chart overviewing the basic findings of the "Public In Practice" project. Organizations profiled are arranged from largest to smallest, with the largest group on top.

The above infographic is taken from the booklet "Public In Practice: A Field Guide to Public Interest Design in the Twin Cities." The document, published a year ago, was created by undergraduate architecture student Evan Hildebrand working under Professor Ozayr Saloojee as an independent research project under through the undergraduate research scholarship (URS). The goal of the project was to examine how public interest design was viewed and practice among designers, architectural firms, and other organizations in the Twin Cities. The following text is taken from the introduction:

"Twenty designers were interviewed, representing three large, three medium, and three small architecture firms, as well as three organizations involved with public interest design, in addition to the University of Minnesota's College of Design. They are all in some way involved in public interest design, and their interviews form the basis of this guide. The firms and organizations profiled were chosen for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to, their already publicized work and reputation for public interest design, their size and presence in the Twin Cities, and the recommendation of previous interviewees. Effort has been made to showcase organizations at a variety of sizes, practicing in a variety of different ways. This document is not comprehensive: it is intended as a representative snapshot of the overall field of public interest design as it currently exists in the Twin Cities. There are more firms, organizations, and individuals than the ones mentioned here involved in the practice of public interest design.

Each organization is profiled in its own entry, arranged and divided according to size. Each entry begins with a concise overview and a quote from the interviewee. Additional project examples, inspiration and/or precedents, and images have been included when applicable and available. The entries are bookmarked by an overview of public interest design in the Twin Cities at the beginning, including connections and inspirations, and a conclusion profiling some of the issues facing the future of public interest design."

If you are interested in reading more, the entire booklet can be found embedded below, or by clicking the link here.

Design Futures Forum Reflections [Part 2]

Malia Lee Panorama.jpgImage Courtesy Malia Lee

This past June, six students from the College of Design got the opportunity to travel, along with faculty member James Wheeler, to the second annual Design Futures Public Interest Design Student Leadership Forum. The gathering, this year held at Tulane University's School of Architecture in New Orleans, is an effort to bring together students and leaders in public interest design for discussion and exploration of design in the public interest. The event this past year included 10 workshops, 26 speakers, and 65 students from across the globe. Below are three short reflections on the experience, written by some of the Minnesota students who attended. [Part 2 - scroll down to see previous blog post with more student reflections].

Malia Lee Theresa Hwang.jpg Malia Lee, Theresa Hwang, and Other Forum Attendee - Image Courtesy Malia Lee

Malia Lee
The Design Futures Forum was an amazing opportunity where individuals from across the country came together with different interdisciplinary backgrounds to discuss visions of public interest design (PID) along with new initiatives and previous experiences on using design for the greater good. Through the many workshops I received training on financing public interest design projects, organizing, understanding communities, looking at case studies, investigating PID interests, and learning about the overall complexities of community oriented design. In addition to receiving some training, I was able to build relationships and camaraderie with like-minded individuals who were both professionals and students. The forum left me feeling empowered, knowing that as students we have the ability to create a lot change in fact we may even be in better position to do so while we are students. It was inspiring being able to listen to speakers such as Bryan Bell, James Stockard, Maurice Cox, Dan Etheridge, John Peterson, and Theresa Hwang. Theresa Hwang's project was one that really stuck with me. She is a Rose Fellow that focused on tackling the homelessness issue on Skid Row, in Los Angeles, California. The underlining question is, how can design thinking be used to empower communities in order to achieve longstanding results that can elevate communities to another level? The most effective outcomes occur when assisting and helping communities solve problems from within. To achieve the best results through our efforts we need to learn to let go of our personal values and beliefs and understand the values and beliefs of those in which we intend to serve. Through being at the Design Futures Forum I feel more confident and empowered moving forward as a designer and community activist and I have made new connections with other leaders from around the country who share similar interests.

Sarah Hayosh.jpg Image Courtesy Sarah Hayosh

Sarah Hayosh
One of the most rewarding parts of the Design Futures student leadership forum was the opportunity to form connections with a diverse set of students and professionals with experience in the field. For 5 days, not only did we have engaging workshops and presentations by current leaders in the field, we were surrounded by a cohort of peers, many of whom, over nighttime conversations over beers and oysters, or long winding walks home through muggy New Orleans neighborhoods, I learned were also grappling with some of the same questions regarding public interest design that I was. The scale ranged from the structural to the intensely personal. How do we move public interest design beyond subsidized or pro-bono initiatives? How do you take something akin to a movement, that is inherently human and messy, begin to translate its values into mainstream practice? What are the values upon which we should base our work? What are my values? How have my lived experiences shaped those values? Design Futures was a great place to discuss and debate, share ideas and learn from each other, but it's not the only forum where we can explore those questions and have those conversations. Kitty cat club, anyone?

Moriah Baltz Streetcars.JPG New Orleans Streetcars - Image Courtesy Moriah Baltz

Moriah Baltz
The design futures public interest design forum was a fantastic learning opportunity that inspired me to start thinking like a leader, define my learning goals and imagine my career path. Through the forum, I was exposed to PID leaders as well as architecture, landscape architecture, finance, housing, and urban planning students and faculty from all over the United States. Most importantly the forum provided me with the training and inspiration to develop my community engagement skills, invest in the PID network and maintain goal-oriented work. Overall, I learned that PID will look different for different people and might change throughout the course of any one person's career, but it is important to recognize that there are many ways to have an impact. It is not how this work is manifested but the quality of the goals that define what drives the work. At the forum, we talked about how specific goals may change but we must keep our aspiration and believe we can make a change. This discussion helped me realize the importance of identifying transferrable skills and the potential for learning in any role. More importantly, it gave me the confidence to recognize that, no matter my situation, I can find a way to do meaningful work. The forum inspired me to fight for idealism and believe I have the choice to name and claim the world I want to live in.