Salma Shamel, Class of 2017

Salma Shamel is from Cairo, Egypt. She works with video, print and text and is currently based in New York City. She is now a doctoral student in the department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. Salma did her BA in Media Design at the German University in Cairo, and her MA in Design Studies at Parsons The New School of Art and Design in New York. Her areas of interest include philosophical conceptions of archival technologies, history of science and technology, Arab media and art industries, and experimental video. She is a founding member of The Mosireen Media Collective.

Yijia Wang, Class of 2019

One part analyst, one part designer, one part always curious to learn how society works. Graduated from quantitative economics & studio arts background, I am currently a Brand & Media Analyst at a marketing firm. Besides telling stories from data with my day job, I’m also a part-time (self-taught) designer, telling stories from graphics. While the analytical part of me has trained for years of rigorous mathematics studies, I think it is time for my self-taught designer side to get professional prepared, not only for becoming a design practitioner/scholar, but to dive deeper into the inner-workings of designing for systematic changes, and exploring the possibilities to bring arts and science together.

I was born and raised in Hangzhou, China, graduated from Tufts University and moved to New York City ever since.

Sarah Mazet, Class of 2019

Marrakesh, the red city in Morocco – is where I grew up. The culture I was raised in.  An essential fact since it gave me the opportunity to compare my unique country to any city or country I later visited in Europe – where my parents are from. The warm Moroccan culture, people’s gestures, and their behaviors are what I call my roots. With these roots, I had a special encounter with the European culture and my architecture and design bachelor at ENSAV La Cambre in Brussels.

Eventually, I built myself with everything around me I saw as constructive, trying to melt all those pieces collected from different places and situations, creating a state of mind that is constantly evolving.

Moving around at this young age made me feel as if something was lacking. Wth time I’ve been introduced  to a new life, a new range of emotion and a new portal to creativity. That realization opened my mind to what beauty is, and I was reborn from disorientation to passion to use my background positively and constructively.

With this new, aware, perspective I became fascinated by the human body and its construction and motion, and tried to understand it as I felt it – fragmented. Human behaviors and gestures became a source of interest and fascination. This was channeled to my passion towards unusual, objects. Walking for miles was my way of learning movement more clearly.

The hypersensitivity that sprung in me from my encounters with different cultures, makes me sometimes think more than I act and takes me floating around my own mind instead of working practically towards my goals.

New York was perfect for continuing this research. The city became a source of inspiration with all the layers that designed it.

Everything is so unique and special in the big apple. “New York is a place for lazy travelers, you can go around and find something unknown everyday,” said Manny one of the most important persons I met here.

Nath Romasha, Class of 2019

Entering the world of formal design education, is a life force, élan vital, for me!  With over two decades of a successful corporate and entrepreneurial career, the progression heralds unlearning and rebirth, as much as it embodies my past, making the idea layered and meaningful.  I am drawn to the interdisciplinary breadth of the curriculum, as a non practitioner, design has been integral yet informal in my life.  The opportunity to learn from formal modes of inquiry, with cohorts and faculty, is humbling and exciting; the creative and critical intelligence offered by MA Design Studies, will enable me to be better informed for the next two decades of my career.

I am an Indian born Singaporean and a naturalized American.  I spent my formative career in the luxury, hospitality industry and have since held roles in public relations, executive search, creative direction and business development.  I have been a partner and consultant with blue chip firms; most recently, I ran my own firm at the intersection of management and creative professionals, based in Los Angeles, California.  I have traveled extensively in Europe, Asia Pacific and North America; a believer of climate change, I am now thrilled to be a pedestrian, in touch with the rest of humanity, using public transport in New York.

A certified executive coach from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, I apply my management experience towards enabling the success of younger executives.   With the growing influence of design processes in effecting social change, I am intrigued by the untapped potential this can present for organizational change.

I have a grown son, Jeet, who is a musician from Hollywood and a budding accountant.  I am open to criticism and enjoy people, the arts and diverse cultures.

Behin Forghanifar, Class of 2019

I was born in May 10, 1986, in Tehran, Iran. I graduated with my MSc. in architecture and received my bachelor’s degree in the same field. Since 2010, I have worked both in professional and academic careers. My precious experiences as an architect, interior designer, researcher and instructor in several consulting engineers firms and design studios led to broadening my horizon of design and its effects on so many dimensions of our existence.

As I have been brought up in a family with strong inclinations towards art and science, learning as passion has always been my initial goal. In my teenage years, I was fascinated by architecture as an artful science that subtly combines the art of designing and science of engineering to create places. By devoting years of intensive academic focus to my favorite field, I found design practice an endeavor to shape both our built environment and our understanding of the entire world concurrently.

This fact inspired me to re-think about design. While being a graduate student, by engaging in other form of arts like music and sciences like philosophy and literature, I found an intense interdisciplinary interest in seeking the interactions of design and other realms which result in more innovative, free and sensory design methods. I engrossed in the Design Studies MA program in leading Parsons School of Design since it would provide me with this cross- disciplinary design approach through encouraging both analytical and practical studies which leads to enhanced understanding of my design practice implications as an architect.

Keiko Nakamura, Class of 2019

I was born and raised in Japan. With B.A. in foreign studies and LL.B., and after some transient jobs, I started my career in advertising and continued for 15 years. During those years, I engaged in a wide range of marketing communications practices in the producer’s capacity, producing advertising, promotions, media contents, events, etc. with multiple clients and professionals. Being in the realm of marcom, design thinking was always around, which I enjoyed very much.

However, as I grew more confident at what I did, I began to feel I must get out of the conventional ways of its business practices in order to really activate my true self, integrating all I have; my skills, experiences, sensitivities and passions. That’s when I decided to take a chance to redesign the next stage my life.

I wanted to throw myself into a cross-cultural environment, hoping to find my true identity and strengths/weaknesses as well as to learn different values and viewpoints at the same time. I got intrigued by Parsons Design Studies program pioneering the interdisciplinary field of design where such versatile faculty and students from different backgrounds meet.

Being a non-occupational designer, I conceive “design” in a broad sense. Design is not just about the tangible, but it is ubiquitous and behind all aspect of human acts and thoughts. By acquiring better understanding of issues, wants and needs of society, I hope to put new and interesting ideas and values into practice, with the talents I will come across out there.

Claudia Marina, Class of 2017


My name is Claudia Marina. I moved to New York after completing my undergraduate degree at the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida. After working professionally in editorial and online media, I decided to pursue a master’s degree and specialize my writing, which is what brought me to Parsons’ MA Design Studies program. I’m interested in the material culture, spatial studies, the afterlife of things as well as new and better ways to tell stories.

Irem Yildiz, Class of 2018


I am Irem from Istanbul, Turkey. I have started to the Architectural Design Master Program right after graduating from Architecture at Istanbul Technical University in 2014. Following my change in major from Urban and Regional Planning to Architecture, my interest of urban texture and cultural networks has been shaped. During my undergrad years, I have worked on diverse scales and concepts both on design studios and internships. Besides school, I got the opportunity to join various workshops, exhibitions and events.


Mariann Asayan, Class of 2018

I will be joining the MADS family fresh out of my bachelor program at Syracuse University where I pursued a double major in Fashion Design and Psychology. Knowledge for knowledge sake has never rang true to me. Knowledge can never be meaningless as it allows you to open your eyes to the invisible network that connects everything. It was at Syracuse where I experimented within this invisible network and learned how intrinsic the relationships between design, technology, and psychology truly were.


Addy Fadina, Class of 2018


My name is Adebola Fadina. I am Originally from the Bronx, NY but recently moved update New York. Since I was young, I’ve always held interest in all aspects of art and design. I always used drawing as an outlet to express myself at times where words couldn’t. In middle school I attended a school that specialized in theater arts.


Kayla O’Daniel, Class of 2018



My name is Kayla O’Daniel and I was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. As an undergrad I studied at North Carolina State University where I completed a BS in Business Administration & Marketing and a BA in Design Studies. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the realm of Design Studies early in my undergrad education. In an attempt to broaden the reach of design influences among the university, the College of Design developed the Design Studies program to connect to the other colleges including the College of Management, which was where I was studying.


Diana Duque, Class of 2018



I see myself as an Observer, Communicator, Problem­solver, Editor, Translator, Curator, Creative Thinker and, quite dutifully, a Cultural Diplomat. Growing up in both the US and Colombia, SA, I was given the opportunity to master two languages (sí, dos idiomas!), understand two cultures (dos culturas MUY diferentes), and recognize the many beautiful tones of gray that exist in a world that others so often choose to view in black and white (o al revés, blanco y negro).


Kashish Mittal, Class of 2018


Originally from India, I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design, specializing in Typography & Editorial Design from Northumbria University in UK. While I was there, I developed a passion for typography and print design.  (more…)

Rami Saab, Class of 2018


I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the American University of Beirut in 2014. Beirut, my city, is an urban manifestation of contradictions and wildly divergent thinking. (more…)

Student Profiles



Daisy Lei, Class of 2017

My name is Lei Qionglu (“Daisy” for friends). I was born in Changsha, a city located in Southern China famous for its spicy cuisine. I attended university in Shanghai and gained a Bachelor’s degree on Fashion Design and Engineering. After graduation, I worked as a PR manager for both women luxury and commercial brands. At a certain point, my job started to involve more complicated tasks and thus required more sophisticated project management skills. Therefore, three years after I joined the workforce, I acquired a PMP certificate to improve my professional efficiency. During the past two years, I worked on creative projects with designers with various expertise and backgrounds and also dealt with clients ranging from national financial organizations to independent local companies. I decided to pursue graduate studies because my working experiences made me realize that a much deeper understanding of design, not only as craftsmanship but also as a cultural and social phenomenon, would provide many more opportunities for my future career.

So here I am. I have chosen Parsons because of its stellar reputation in the design industry, of its attractive location in the heart of New York City and, more importantly, of the brilliant cohort whom I will be working with and learning from. My personal interests lie primarily in the fusion of local cultural elements with the global aesthetics in the fashion industry and also in interior design. I plan to focus on the Asian market, with the hope of applying my research to practical cases in my home country.

Stephen Dahmer

Stephen Dahmer, Class of 2017

Identifying primarily as a songwriting, I have been fortunate to spend much of thelast eight years involved with projects that have broadened my understanding of the use of different media to create spaces for cultural critique and engagement. These endeavors include: the use of various art forms to raise awareness of and initiate focused engagement with environmental issues; music as a catalyst for the formation of meaningful social spaces that foster fraternal bonds, most prominently in the use of a household for a concert or community sing-a-long; and the use of site-specific theater to creatively promote a yearning for dialogue and civic engagement within a community. Each of these experiences has given me greater insight into the power of art to create spaces where folks can come together to dream and imagine new forms of community engagement and cultural identity.

My educational experience thus far includes: a liberal arts degree with emphases in philosophy/religion, sociology, and social work; a semester spent in the Middle East studying politics, religion, and culture; classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in figure drawing, painting, and portraiture; workshops with Philadelphia Theater of the Oppressed; and an apprenticeship with Fennec Design Studio in Harrisburg, PA. I have spent time working as an assistant pre-school teacher in West Philly, in restaurants and coffee shops, and on a small organic farm in Central Oregon. I am currently working on a short film, reading, recording new music, and dreaming about spending the next two years studying in New York. See you all soon!


Apoorva Gairola, Class of 2017

My name is Apoorva Gairola. I currently live in New Delhi, India and have been working here as a stylist and writer for a while. I graduated in journalism and mass communication but working for fashion magazines and in advertising, most of my work is in visual media. I am a fan of still and moving images, I love fashion and arts and everything old school captivates me.

I love stories. I did write a few short ones as a kid and the process of stories coming alive is truly intriguing. It starts with a thought, is then penned down in words and then the words take form and we have a visual. The better the design process, the better the end product. I have immense faith in the impact of visual communication on the society. Creative direction/ visual storytelling is what I aim to venture into but the the more I read about design thinking, the more excited I get about the new avenues that Parsons will open up for me.

I am living a dream here… studying at Parsons, living in New York! I am excited and look forward to meeting everyone.




Lisa Merk, Class of 2017

I was born in northern Germany. After I graduated from school, I went to the Dominican Republic for a year. 2005 I started an apprenticeship as an Event Manager in Hamburg and started to work as a project manager in planning and implementation of various event types. Soon I was promoted to the Unitleader for major events. After 3.5 years of working, I decided to apply for a program in Design. Since 2011 I study Design at the University of Applied Sciences Muenster. My main focus lies within product design. In 2013 I studied in Lisbon/Portugal for eight month.

Alongside my studies I work as a tutor in the in the International Office and for one of the most famous German publishing companies for children’s books, games, and toys.

During my studies I took part in competitions, which I was able to pass successfully. My latest successful competition was the IKEA Design Award. Besides my studies I like to travel to places where I can go surfing. These journeys often create part of the base of my designs.

This July I will end my Bachelor Studies in Product Design. I love this field but I believe, that we can create even better designs if we understand the background. That’s why I choose the Design Studies MA.

Fattori Fraser, Class of 2017

Originally from Manchester, the cradle of the Industrial Revolution and the inspiration for Marx and Engels, I am attuned to seeing the way that modes of production affect people, and how Design plays a seminal role in these relationships.

Fresh out of my Bachelors degree in the History of Art at Oxford University, I am ready and rearing to transition from the study of art to the world of design. I am interested in psychological spaces, both the interior and exterior, and how they relate to wider socioeconomics. I am also interested in how this relates to issues of gender and class.

In the past my research has focused on the indigenous designs of the Balearics and their influ- ence on both Catalan and global Modernism. My paper on this subject is set to become my first published work.

I am also interested in Scandinavian design, for its unity of aesthetic and social progressivist prin- ciples. In the future, I endeavour for my work to highlight the social potential of design in the 21st century, building on such principles.

Most importantly, my Masters at Parsons will provide me with a spring-board by which to enact real social change. I hope my work will one day have an impact on the public sphere. Finally, I am very excited about future collaborative opportunities with other students.



Shea Mandolesi, Class of 2017

Originally from Toronto, Ontario, I’ve been living in Halifax, Nova Scotia for the past four years. Just this past spring, I’ve graduated from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University. I received a Bachelor of Design with a focus in Interdisciplinary Design. My skills lie within graphic, product, and system design. NSCAD University has given me a great understanding of design thinking, and how proper execution shapes everything around us. When deep thought and high value are introduced in work, the world takes notice.

My intention of continuing studies at Parsons is to explore the possibilities of challenging our attitude towards animals, with design methodology. Heavily involved in animal rights activism and research for some time, I’ve only grown more of a desire to dedicate my practice to benefit all kind. Through my own personal experience of being a grass-roots activist, I’ve taken notice of trends in negativity not only towards the vegetarian community, but animals as well. The connections between animals, the environment, and us are undeniable; a regular theme I bring in to my work. I don’t believe design can only be limited to humans and society. Now is the time to really consider our relationship with all nature in our design. This way, the hopes of restoring balance, and creating a better future is reachable.

Traveling is very important to me. The entirety of all populations carries an infinite amount of knowledge and opportunity to learn. The most valuable trips are those in which I find compassion. I’ve had great volunteer- ing experiences in Cambodia and Tanzania. In Cambodia, I worked at an orphanage building infrastructure, working in rice fields, teaching english classes and of course playing with the children. In Tanzania, I worked at a school, building classrooms, farm in villages and enjoying time with students. Two very different countries, where I learned an incredible amount about each of their histories, and the warmness of the locals. A part from my volunteering overseas, my leisurly travels have always opened my eyes to history, art, and the kindness of strangers.

I look forward to arrive in New York this fall, my favourite city in the world. I’m equally excited to connect with my peers. Sharing ideas and collaboration really leads to incredible things.

Leticia Bio Picture-min

Leticia Cartier Oxley, Class of 2017

My name is Leticia Cartier Oxley and I am a city walker, architectural photographer, and creative thinker. I approach big ideas using my philosophic training and background to create images and essays that show how human experience is expressed and experienced through the creation and interaction with our environment. I focus on minuscule details, such as color and texture, to show the character of the place.

My education has been a long lineage of city-walkers, from Socrates to Virginia Woolf, who have shown me how the city holds the quicksilver of human consciousness and the many virtues that city life gives to the individual. I believe our participation in city life reflects the happiness and wisdom of our soul.  My Jesuit education has helped me understand various world views and broadened my perspective to consider what is good and how I may be a service to others, which is what brings me to study design. I find that the philosophic nature of design is often overlooked. My goal is to delve into this design community to expand and clarify my own understanding of design, our need for it, how it can give people agency, and bring some of that back to my community.

Student Profiles

Estefania Acosta

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I’m here because my education as an industrial designer has led me to believe that while math is usually referred to as a universal language, design is the universal “action”. I advocate for design in all walks of life, all-inclusive and across the board. As such, I hope to be part of a community that questions its motivations and systemic repercussions. I’m interested in a type of design that changes the behaviors around us for the better, and the ethics behind the process. I also want to explore the possibility of a design theory applicable to social work. I’m concerned by the irrational realities of the world. This is what led me to Design Studies. I’m also here because I want to unify myself, the practical and philosophical drives in me, and I’m glad to be starting this journey in August.

I’m from Mexico, where I’ve spent most of my life. I worked in Aeronautics ever since I graduated, until recently. I love words (reading, writing, looking at them, making them up) and arguing against myself. I like working with my hands, and I wish I was better at it. I’m glad to be meeting all of you soon.

Misha Volf

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I’m Misha.

Here’s a brief biographical narrative:

I used to make music. Though we perceive it to be immaterial, at its root, sound is a body-scale phenomenon which propagates through physical space. Later, I became interested in the spaces constructed for music and sound, and how those spaces affect our experience. I studied acoustics and applied that knowledge to architecture. I told architects how to make rooms sound better. Sometimes they listened.

Then, I made furniture. At first, because I needed things which I couldn’t buy. Then, because friends wanted things they didn’t want to buy. Then, because making became more rewarding than the thing itself.
My favorite things ask questions. Usually something about me, or about them, or about the room they are in. Sometimes they provide answers.

Now, I hope to spend time thinking about how perception, architecture, and objects affect our environments, bodies, and experiences.

Lisa-Mari Stenhaug

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I was born and grew up in Norway. Up until now I have lived in Oslo, where I have been working as a graphic designer. For the past year or so, New York has been my second home. I am very excited about moving here and continuing my studies at Parsons. This will be the second time I will be moving overseas -and for the same purpose. I spent three years in Australia pursuing a degree in visual communication. I loved working with typography, colors, compositions and layouts, and could spend hours doing so. Despite my passion for graphic design, I still wanted to study art and fashion, therefore after Australia, I continued my studies at the University of Oslo. It was during these years I got introduced to environmental and social sustainable design processes.

I believe a design process should not only encompass aesthetics and technical specifications, but it should also embrace environmental and social sustainability. I would like to work with design processes that are analytical and critical, in order to create innovative and sustainable designs.

Ivana Garcia

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My name is Ivana, I’m from Argentina and I’m 29 years old. I am currently living in Córdoba, the place where I grew up. In regards to my studies, I have a BA in Business and I completed my graduate studies in Finance and Balance scorecard but I have always loved art and interior design and dreamed about studying in a university like Parsons.

After I graduated from college, I started working in Deloitte & Touche as a consultant assistant and I ́m currently working in finance and quality control in a Logistics company. My most significant work experience on a personal level was owning a multi-purpose space called “The Endless House” which mixed a little bit of gastronomy, art, design and music. There you could find pieces by some of the most promising Argentine contemporary artists, unique clothes and objects for sale at the store, and listen to performances by independent musicians. While working at The Endless house, I had the opportunity to meet designers, artists and musicians who taught me a different perspective of the world and it helped me realize in what field I wanted to work which is design, more specifically sustainable design.

Regarding my personal interests, through the years I have had the opportunity to travel around the world and I realized how much I enjoy doing it. After I graduated, I went backpacking through Latin America, Europe and Africa and met people from all over the world. So that is why studying in the States gives me the opportunity of meeting new fellows and being in a completely new culture which I’m sure I will enjoy.Even though all my formal education is in Business, I have always been interested in art and design. That is why I strongly believe that an MA in Design Studies will provide me with the knowledge I need to embark in new projects related to sustainable design.

Soohee Cho

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My name is Soohee Cho. I was born in Seoul, Korea in 1991, moved to southern California in 1997, then to Honolulu, Hawaii in 2004. I graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa as an Art History major/English minor, specializing in Japanese art history.

I am particularly interested in communication design, and how design plays an integral role in the relationship between humans and the world. I have a graphic design and event décor background, and a newfound interest in interior design. I’ve had a million internships, from design and lifestyle magazines to fashion houses to art galleries, and if there is one thing I’ve learned from my varied work experience is that no matter how much you think you know, there’s always much, much more to learn. That’s why I’m here – to learn from the best, with the best of the best.

Looking forward to meeting all of you this fall in our journeys to shape the world.

Laura Sanchez

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My name is Laura Sanchez. Originally from Oakland, California I’ve spent most of the last six years working in urban development, philanthropy, and digital media. Until recently, I had never fully realized how long design has been a part of my life and core belief system.

As an undergraduate I studied History and World Arts and Cultural Studies at UCLA. Always fascinated by why people behave the way they do, or why societies function as they do– I enjoy interpreting the present through the lens of the past. Through many different experiences, I’ve come to believe that culture and identity are not static concepts, but instead fluid representations of our personal and shared histories.

This appreciation for the past is a large part of what drew me to the Design Studies program. The ability to enter any situation and understand the broader context or underlying forces shaping the present moment is critical for designers. So is the ability to imagine what could be. A bit of a retro-futurist, I’m deeply curious about how our present actions will be judged in 10 years, 100 years, or even longer!

Over the next two years, I look forward to applying my graduate studies to create new products, services, or experiences that draw on the past to imagine a better, more just future.

Quizayra Gonzalez

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Hello, fellow first years!

One day in 1986, Ramon Gonzalez decided that if he was going to have a daughter he was going to name her Quizayra. My mother agreed and a year later I was born. I am the product of two cultures colliding and everything I do supports that collision.

After a childhood half spent in the Dominican Republic, I attended The University of the Arts and became obsessed with design. I’m still obsessed with design and ecstatic to fuel this obsession in Design Studies. I’m particularly interested in how design manifests itself in a first-generation culture. My Dominican-American world is always in a push and pull scenario and I want to know how design creates/breaks that dynamic. I’m also interested in the culture that products and the ideas behind them create. This interest stems from spending time in the Dominican Republic and seeing how success is equal to the ability to buy American products. I’m excited to dive into Design Studies and explore the thinking behind the making.

I’m trained as a multimedia designer and spent a couple of years working as a graphic designer. Like many artists, I not keen on the corporate world of design but I completely believe in its power to redirect society. I decided to take a break from designing for businesses and started creating my own work. This period of experimentation was more fulfilling than any of my other design jobs and it led me to graduate school. Working for myself brought up questions about art and design that I am excited to work on for the next two years. I truly look forward to meeting all of you because I know each of you will help me answer questions and bring up new ones.

See you in August!

Anke Gründel

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My name is Anke Gründel. Originally from (East) Berlin, Germany, I have been living in New York for over four years working both as a design practitioner and educator. I have degrees in both fashion design and liberal arts with a focus on philosophy and anthropology (plus four years studying biology). While fashion often understands itself as somewhat removed from other design disciplines, it nonetheless is an important social practice that contributes to shaping individual and group identities. Thus, the artifacts created in fashion, just like in other forms of design, can in a way be understood as physical manifestations of cultural norms. As such, they are snapshots of society at a specific time. They reify certain values of an historical period and preserve them for posterity (here the crinoline, corset, and the Victorian gaze, or even the Italian blackshirt come to mind). As this is true for many fields of design, producing both physical and nonphysical objects, there can be no doubt that design, although it is evidently an umbrella term for a vast array of practices, is of crucial importance in society. Not only is it integral for historical investigations but it also creates artifacts necessary for contemporary social criticism, which may even assist in making potential predictions about future developments to help prevent problems.

While I presently teach fashion design (with a focus on sustainability) at Parsons, I plan to deemphasize my focus on fashion. Perhaps at times touching on fashion’s communicative elements, I want to investigate the relational aspect of different artifacts and different layers of society, the connection such objects have to us, and our coexistence with and dependence on them. Taking inspiration from Heidegger, Butler, Latour, Verbeek, and others, I want to inquire into the increasingly important role of design in our age. How do designers actively and inadvertently contribute to shaping us as individuals and as a society? What role do the artifacts themselves play? What ethical implications does this have for design practitioners, the objects, and their users? How does the role of design for meaning making vary in different cultures?

Ethnocentrism, I believe, is one of the worst features a designer, or anyone for that matter, can have. As practitioners, analysts, researchers, and users of design we need to understand or at least try to become aware of the intricate global connections artifacts have today. In a global economy, in which our choices and actions have consequences for people in many different cultures it is of vital importance to understand differences and similarities so that at worst we do no harm and at best we can help to address disparities.
The possibility of scratching the surface of these matters excites me, and I very much look forward to starting this program.

Mae Wiskin

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It’s pretty late and I’ve put this on the back shelf of my closet for far too long. Like most folks, I disdain writing about myself, so I’ve decided to use this profile as an opportunity to write a “flash fiction” piece. The only difference between this one and the others I regularly write is that this one happens to be non-fiction. I have thirteen minutes left. My name is Mae Wiskin and I am the product of a tiny but ferociously strong Thai woman and an overly garrulous Russian Jew from Brooklyn. I was born in Bangkok; however, I’ve moved so many times that countries often blur into one another. I have a non-rolly suitcase and sometimes write letters on my Underwood Typewriter because I adore the sound of clicks against ink and paper. I’m a creative writer, but received an honors degree in human rights law from The University of Washington in Seattle. During college I spent a year in Cairo and traveled throughout the Middle East, collecting stories, images and colorful experience. After college, I moved to Mexico to focus on my art whilst also working for a micro-finance organization in Oaxaca. I wish I could write that I’m fluent in Spanish but I’m not. I can speak a lot of languages to a shallow degree including Bemba, which is the tribal language I learned during my time serving as a global health Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia, a puzzle-shaped country in southern Africa.

I am moved by all things social justice and art, and I am profoundly excited to pursue a Masters of Design at Parsons because I believe you should never stop learning and following that which makes you truly come alive. As it stands now, I would like to unravel the notion of home, identity and community. I am somewhat obsessed with “cognitive maps,” migration, relocation, interiors and urban planning. Although I am not sure how this passion will manifest itself, I enjoy musing about unexpected homes made of unconventional materials in atypical locations, both nationally and internationally. I believe that every individual is trying to find “their place in the world,” and I would like to use “Design” in order to reimage urban spaces and help people foster community. It is my dream to work for an organization that fuses social justice with art that people use. Time’s up. I look forward to learning from all of you this fall.

Sonja Holopainen


Hello! My name is Sonja Holopainen and I was born and raised in Helsinki, Finland but have lived most of my life in the Bay Area. I just graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz in June with a B.A. in Philosophy as well as a B.A. in Art. In my art major I focused on photography and have done an extensive amount of studio work. In studying philosophy I found myself most attracted to 19th century existential philosophy as well as phenomenology and I am greatly inspired by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Sartre.

My interest in Design Studies stems from that it is a space in which I can combine my two areas of study— philosophy and art. I’m eager to look at art and design from a philosophical perspective and use philosophy to analyze the capabilities of art and design. Even though I have an interest in aesthetics, I wish to move beyond just simple theory and explore the tangible, real consequences of design. I’m especially interested in design that has to do with the daily lives and identities of people, and for example how that is reflected through social media such as Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. I also hope to explore the overlaps between design and fashion design.

I am very excited to start this journey in August and to finally be able to scratch an itch for what I’ve always wanted to explore!

Laura Belik

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My name is Laura Belik, I’m from São Paulo, Brazil and I’ve recently graduated as an architect and urban planner. I’m passionate about the contemporary cities and its intriguing and complex dialogues. Cities represent an open field of possibilities, and its constant changes are truly a reflex of its society. That’s what challenges me the most.I’ve worked in several different fields besides architecture per se, such as arts, museums and exhibitions, research, teaching, writing, producing cultural events and so on. For my undergraduation final thesis I decided on a research about Urbanism in Detroit, MI and the collapse of modernism. This research
turned into a paper and later on an exhibition that was part of the 10Th of Architecture of São Paulo. For the past 18 months I’ve been working in a multi-media museum called Museu da Imagem e do Som (Image and Sound Museum) in a cinema and audiovisual cultural program. I’ve also focused on a few personal projects such as the “Centro e Sola”, an architectonical guided walk through São Paulo’s city center.
I guess been an architect for me represents the curiosity regarding the cities and its uses. I believe that is a discussion that goes beyond any specific field of research and concern us all. I’m looking forward to the MA in Design Studies to continue in this multi-disciplinary search, creating different perspectives.

Gene Duval

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My name is Gene, and I am originally from Montreal, QC. My journey as a practitioner started with photography and evolved to all spheres of design. I graduated from Concordia University with a degree in Design in 2013 and since I tried to stay away from the practical aspect of my field. My constant challenging and questioning of my own notions of design could not allow me to be a designer in the traditional sense. As a designer, I could only touch the rim of what it meant to be designing, as an active participant in Design Studies I can take part of the change and affect my surroundings. In this sense, I learn from the places, the people, the differences, and the experiences of all “things” I come across. For myself, design is a primary aspect of the world we live in. It is not to be mistaken for cultural elements, but is rather an agent of culture and language.Since graduation, I have been working in a merchandising company for musical acts trying to take part in an aspect of culture that is constantly changing with the people. I am constantly looking at the bigger picture where design is a small part of the solution or the problem. I am interested in the influence of history and culture in art and design related language and I am interested in the little things that define us culturally. In this sense, I am seeking at enriching my knowledge of the world I live in which at the moment is limited to an understanding of one place and practice. I am thrilled to join this program and take the leap between practice and writing in the hope of finding some answers.

Oliver Bolton

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Hi everyone! My name is Oliver Bolton and I am an industrial design graduate from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia. I am 21 years old and enjoy everything about design. My main motivation for deciding to study at Parsons was the opportunity to live in New York City, a place where design is embedded into the cultural atmosphere. My interests include sound and music, and a lot of my design work thus far has examined the potential for a deeper connection between sound and design. I am also a musician and have been playing guitar and writing music for about 7 years. I have a deep interest in Japanese culture, and have been practicing jiu-jitsu for about a year, which I plan to continue in New York.My background in industrial design has led me to take a relatively product orientated view of design, although I am extremely interested in the nature of design itself and the potential for its future use, which is why I believe that Design Studies is the right course for me. I enjoy constantly learning and believe that research has a large role to play in design. I’ve attached a link to a video about Dieter Rams, the Director of Design of Braun from 1961 – 1995, whom I admire and whose designs I have studied with great interest. His list of ‘ten principles for good design’ are an interesting examination and study of design, and speak volumes about the inherently ethical nature of design. I am really looking forward to moving to New York and meeting everyone in August!

Micki Unterberg

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Hi! My name is Micki. I was born in America but lived the majority of my life in Israel. After receiving my bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design, with an emphasis on user diversity, I started working for a studio that integrates brand identities with three dimensional commercial presentations (such as trade fairs, corporate events and sponsor’s pavilions). The interaction with the “real world”, i.e. designer vs. marketer/consumer, engendered thoughts regarding the importance and value given towards the designer and his work process. In a world overflowing with conspicuous consumption plus the need for constant changes or upgrades I believe too much is taken for granted. It’s necessary to take the moment to explore, comprehend and properly translate the more theoretical aspects of creating. It takes two to tango in the design world which is why I am interested in new modes of communication, interaction and behavior. I am adept at physically putting two shapes together. It’s the question of “why” which brings me to the MA Design Studies at Parsons, to properly examine and combine theory, methodology and empirical discussions in order to further my future of design practice. I look forward to the next two years and meeting you all!

Design Studies Photo Album

Design Studies students enjoying a walk on the High Line during Fall Orientation.
Front row, left to right: Divia Padayachee, Gigi Polo; Back row: Juan Pablo Pemberty, Laura Wing, Rachel Smith, Ruo Ma, Shenyangzi Wang, Nyugen Tran, and Komal Shomal.

Student Profiles

It is time to give a warm welcome to the second class of Design Studies students, joining us from as far away as China, Taiwan, India and many different parts of USA.


Students’ Summer Plans

As the inaugural year of the MA Design Studies program draws to a close, we are delighted to report that the energy of the first cohort is being rewarded with fellowships, internships, jobs and other summer plans.  Here is a list of what we’re doing this summer… (more…)

Welcome to Students Joining Us In January

With this series of profiles, we are delighted to introduce you to the
students joining the MA Design Studies program in the spring semester.


Student Profiles

Over the coming weeks, this column will introduce you to our first cohort of Design Studies MA students.  Some are joining us from as far away as Beijing, Durban, Taipei, and Zagreb; others come from states as far flung as California, Minnesota, Virginia, and New York.  All will be bringing experiences that have led them to question the nature of design and its affects in the world. Welcome to the Class of 2014!

Tia Remington-Bell

After graduating from Colorado College I landed a job in Washington, DC that helped me pursue a background in cognitive anthropology. Over the past few years I have spent time contributing to non-profit research on social issues. Using anthropological, sociological, political science, and psychological methodology, we were able to map the gaps that existed between expert and public understanding of social issues. From these gaps we were able to design communication tools that furthered public understanding about social issues. While I participated in conducting research for the company, I was also a principal member of the public presentation team. Our goal was to create visual interpretations of the research reports. Living somewhere in between the research and presentation team, I began to become more interested in the intersections of  design and communication. Joining the Design Studies program at Parsons was a perfect way me to continue to blend these two interests together.  Over the next two years I look forward to exploring the interests of the entire team as well as I seeing the pivotal role that design plays in shaping how humans have come to think, understand, and process.


William Weathersby

It is my pleasure to join the Parsons Design Studies MA program. Design has inscribed the arc of my life and career. As a writer and editor in New York specializing in architecture and design for more than 20 years, I have had the opportunity to interview many emerging talents and leading lights including David Adjaye, Frank Gehry, Patricia Urquiola, and Zaha Hadid. As both a staff editor and freelancer, I have contributed to Adweek, Architectural Record, The Architect’s Newspaper, Contract,, Elle Decor, Interior Design, and Metropolis, among others. The shape of things intrigues me at every scale, from spoons to cities. Recently I completed the manuscript for a book about the history of the Hotel Pierre overlooking Central Park, with chapters on architecture, interior design, art, cuisine, fashion, society, genealogy, and scandal. The project was both a challenge and a pleasure.

My favorite professional design moments: visiting the Kremlin in the rain, circling the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao at twilight, and receiving a fax from Karl Lagerfeld as a potential introduction to my hotel book.

Joining this inaugural class represents my return engagement at Parsons. With a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri, I followed my passion for design to this New School division in the late 80s, studying criticism with the late Herbert Muschamp and other provocative, engaging thinkers. The launch of the new Design Studies program fortuitously arises at a time of professional reflection for me: how to build a bridge to take me from journalist to active participant on the design team as a consultant, curator, producer, team leader, or perhaps studio designer myself.

“Design is shape with purpose,” writes architect Lance Hosey in his 2012 book The Shape of Green. I am already a chronicler of design from light bulbs to landscapes; further graduate studies at Parsons will enhance my purpose to shape designs themselves. I look forward to sharing what I know thus far, and learning from my new colleagues whose own worldviews and insights I am certain will astound me.


Kamala Murali

It is with a sense of great enthusiasm that I look forward to moving to New York to Parsons to pursue my MA in Design Studies. Having graduated with a Professional Diploma in Textile Design in India, I bring with me a willingness to explore, learn and question while engaging with the field of design. My graduate project sought to re-examine the idea of zero-waste in a contemporary textile and fashion context, asking a fundamental question, is waste really waste? Being able to work as a designer in contexts that sought to create, build solutions and question belief systems and ideas in contemporary society, in turn allowed me to look at the world with a new sense of wonder and I feel it is this which led me to the Design Studies program at Parsons.

My interest lies in the ability and potential to use design as a tool to create change. Having worked on craft projects in rural India with artisans and weavers, a sustainable water awareness project with a law firm, an embroidery project with urban poor women, as well as in two well-known design studios in India, my experience has been well rounded and informative. The areas of design that I seem to gravitate towards particularly are design histories, design and sociology, design and anthropology, sustainable design and of course contemporary practices of design. Being able to study how design impacts various disciplines, lifestyles and more importantly, the future, are the areas that I want to explore as a designer. It is with a sense of gratitude that I welcome the next two years. I warmly look forward to meeting you all!


Lindsay Reichart

Hi Everyone! I am from East Hampton, NY and graduated from Fordham in 2011 with a degree in Fine Arts and Art History.  My interest in design mainly stems from my senior thesis.

My personal interest in the work of the Russian avant-garde directed me to Alexander Rodchenko.  Which, in turn, along with the help of my professor, directed me to contemporary design work.  My interest from there stemmed partly from the beauty and intentions of design, as well as design’s position in Art History, as an often-overlooked art form. I find that design over the years, despite changes in environment, is always relevant and always accessible.

This interest led me to a second thesis, Benchmarks: Seven Women in Design, an exhibition that looked at the significant professional or tipping point moments of seven women graphic designers. I started off with a list of about 75 women designers. I researched each one, and selected thirty. From there we put together a number of combinations, and decided to focus on designers living and working in New York.  We chose 7 based on the unique qualities of their work as well as their positions as successful designers: Louise Fili, Elaine Lustig Cohen, Gail Anderson, Paula Scher, Lucille Tenazas, Eileen Boxer, and Carin Goldberg. An important part of my thesis project was to interview each designer and ask them a series of questions that pertain to their approach to design. The dialogue I had with each designer made me realize that their body of work was more significant and more widespread than I could have possibly imagined. With this exhibition I have been very fortunate to get to know so many wonderful designers. In the future, I would like to extend this project beyond New York.


Vivian Cai

Hey guys, my name is Weiwen Cai (Vivian) from Beijing, CHINA. I can’t wait to join Design Studies class and meet everyone. I have been studying advertising for many years, my undergraduate life in Michigan State, and one year of the post-graduate time in Hong Kong. But after I learned Advertising and did some internship, I realized advertising is one part of design, and I found that one way to know and understand more about my clients and then create great ideas for them is to study other parts of design. Interior design, architecture, fashion, painting, urban, media, brand building, IT, culture even social influences are all very important and will contribute to my career. That’s the reason why I applied this program and which also means I have no background of design or art, but the good part of this is that I can learn not only from our instructors but also each one of you.

But my life has been always related with design. When we moved to a new house, I design my own bedroom, which is now my most proud work. My father studied art before and he bought me design books and took me to different kinds of exhibitions all the time and explained their concepts for me since I was little, which influenced my understanding of art and design unconsciously. And I also have a hobby of collecting designer toys.

I want continue to research international design and its relationship with different industries, for example advertising or communication, as my professional goals in Parsons. And I also wish to study culture’s influence on design industry, because I have been exposed to various international cultural settings by traveling and studying abroad. I love diverse culture and I am keen about it.

And locating in the New York City adds more value to Parsons, since New York City is the cultural center of the world. There are many things we can explore from this city in order to stimulate our inspiration. NYC has been my dream city all the time, so I also wish during the time I study in Parsons, I can completely explore this city and I hope I can do it with you.


Chen-Yu Lo

My name is Chen-Yu Lo.  I have no background of design or aesthetics, but do have a faith that good design can bring more interesting life experience and make a better world.  I like to observe people’s behavior and their reactions toward certain things.  To me, consumer behavior is always a topic involving simple logic yet sophisticated casual relations.  How to apply design research to service and experience design to figure out customer needs and provide them novel experiences is one of questions that I would like to explore in this program.

By organizing entrepreneurial events, I find a lot of entrepreneurs are eager to use technologies to solve problems or inconveniences that they confront or observe in their daily lives.  To provide a better and right application or service to customers or society is always the key task to those start-ups.  How to use design thinking to call for actions and respond to social and community issues is another question that I hope to explore at Parsons.

It is real my honor to be part of this inaugural program.  I’m looking forward to meeting you all.


Dora Sapunar

I am greatly looking forward to joining the first generation of Design Studies students at Persons. While looking for a program that would help me gain a more in-depth understanding of issues in design, Design Studies proved the perfect answer to my search in every aspect.

I come from Croatia, where I received a BA in Art History and English from Zagreb University in 2009, followed by an MA in 20th century Art History in 2012. I’ve worked at several galleries and museums, written and held lectures on art but only when studying about and working with design did I feel like I found my niche. I found topics that are both interesting to me and that I believe I could make a contribution to.

My interests lie in the study of design during socialism, a broad topic with many fascinating facets, such as the role of women in socialist design, the transition of design production from socialism to post-socialism, socialist nostalgia and a reviving interest in the design of the fifties. I’m also very interested in recent developments in European, especially Eastern European, design and the way information about design is disseminated through blogs and magazines. My goal is to work on raising awareness and provoking discussions on different topics related to design. By working with top professionals in the field and through communication with my colleagues I am sure I will get closer to achieving this goal.


Gigi Polo

Born and raised in Dominican Republic, I’m a graphic designer by trade but my passion lies in the power of design as a tool for positive social change and activism. By exploring human behavior I attempt to fuse art and science to translate scientific findings into visual messages of human experience.

After graduating from Parsons in Communication Design, I opened my design studio, Myellow Boots, to served new businesses and NGOs, and worked as a contractor for Condé Nast and Hearst, among others. Over the years, my work has shifted from commercial design to conscious awareness pieces related to social injustice and mental health.

Because of the constant change in technology and the growth of media, I pursued an MA in Media Studies at The New School, which culminated in a documentary—produced, directed and edited my me—on Bipolar Disorder and the Artistic Temperament called Madly Gifted, to help reduce the stigma around bipolar disorder and create better communication between bipolar artists and mental health professionals. The documentary has been screened in NY and Dominican Republic; it will be screened for the psychiatry community at the 64th American Psychiatry Association Meeting on Media and Education, on October 4th, 2012.

I have been teaching design at Parsons since 2006, and I believe a change in design education is needed in order to feed the demands of new generations who are driven by a technological world in constant evolution that has blurred geographical boundaries, creating new globalized cultures and design spheres. I wish to bridge the gaps between design-learning-biology, and break the linearity of our teaching system to transform it into a more organic and natural response to the world around us, where design becomes more about creating experiences and less about memorizing rules and formulas.


Sarah Lillenberg

What a pleasure and honor it is to be part of this unique program. My interest in design dates from my work as a graphic design major at Point Loma Nazarene University, in San Diego. Graphic design encouraged and educated my knowledge of aesthetics, but bombarded me with an agenda to sell. It seemed as though everything was governed by the success of consumerism and true prizes within well-crafted design never left the computer lab because they weren’t ‘marketable.’

Incorporating social values into the methodology of design is what interests me and excites me. Parson’s recognizes that design is not a reductive discipline, but a category that flows into multiple sectors of life. The human condition writes design history, and in turn, design writes human history. What objects, thoughts and subjects do we take with us, and what do we leave behind? What embodies well-crafted and complete design, and what falls into the category of misinformed, temporal idols? I want to use these questions to create a closer world, and find how design connects us to cultures, communities, individuals and their futures.

I can’t wait to meet all of you and hear your goals.


Finn Ferris

I’m looking forward to meeting my colleagues in the Design Studies MA program at orientation and to joining the larger Parsons New School community this fall. Parsons is a great school for design with an amazing location and history.  I also like the idea specializing in a relatively new field, still without a home in most universities (despite obvious relevance to contemporary life), and engaging in the ongoing discussion of its place in academia.  Having taken longer than most undergraduates to choose a major, and studying a wide range of liberal arts subjects before settling on English literature, the broad scope of Design Studies feels like an excellent fit. After college, I went on to complete a certificate in Digital Design from Parsons and became an avid fan of the Adobe programs, which I had not used previously, and a graphic design enthusiast.  The certificate allowed me to design a couple of logos, a database and several promotional materials, and to move into my most recent professional role as a director of media and communications, with oversight of social media campaigns, some rebranding exercises and a website redesign.  As a graduate student in Design Studies, I look forward to researching and writing about the artificial world in general and about specific design objects individually. I suspect made objects, like language or culture, can be seen both as a mirror to ourselves and as an interpretive lens, altering our identity and sense of purpose in the world.  I’m excited about the curriculum and looking forward to the experience and exchange of ideas.


Salem Tsegaye

Coming from the discipline of cultural anthropology, I have a deep appreciation for ethnography, really, anything pertaining to the study of human groups and cultural patterns. Most of my work in the past two years has been in program evaluation and community-based research, working with diverse populations and the small nonprofits that serve them to identify community needs and ensure those needs are being met. A huge piece of this involves information gathering from community members themselves, a practice that is incredibly valuable but often underutilized in important collaborative projects.

Aside from my love for research and community dialogue, I’m really into cultural exhibits and the public portrayal of populations. This includes but isn’t limited to museum work, which is why Design Studies appealed to me. Community members are usually engaged in research phases of collaborative projects, often as research subjects, but then are often left out of the process for delivering findings, or “designing” this delivery. This is the type of work I hope to get into at the end of my two years in this program, ultimately ensuring community members are engaged as equal stakeholders in all phases of collaborative projects. I’m really looking forward to learning about design processes and how we come to give meaning to the many things in our lives we produce. I’m excited this field is as theory-laden and history-laden as anthropology. It’s this type of understanding and critical thinking that serves us well in applied research.


Divia Padayachee

My name is Divia Padayachee. I live in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, one South Africa’s most beautiful coastal cities. I’ve always gravitated towards design in some way be it through making my own birthday cards from the age of 5 or watching my mum at work in her sewing room.  It was whilst playing with sari fabric and prom dress remnants that I realised my love for bold, bright colours, and creating beautiful things from a simple piece of cloth. My most distant memories are that of being in various fabric shops, wondering around barrels of material and picking out my favourites. I always knew what I wanted and how the end result should look.

Though I was continuously surrounded by design in my mum’s sewing room my path to Parsons and the Design Studies program was not straight-forward. Through high-school and university I’ve been involved in various extra-curricular activities. The Model United Nations Debate was one that made the biggest impact on my life. In 2006 I entered the International round of the Model UN Debate held at Yale University. This sparked my love for public speaking and journalism.  With that I enrolled at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape, a province to the south of KwaZulu-Natal. I studied a Bachelor of Journalism specializing in Communications Design and continued to play my part in Model UN by becoming the head adjudicator of the Eastern Cape debates.

In 2011 I became a journalism and design tutor and worked at the National Arts Festival. The latter entailed the design and layout of the festival’s daily newspaper, Cue, which ran the length of the 10 day extravaganza. Working in this newsroom fulfilled my desire to work with people in producing something to be enjoyed by the general public. My ambitions for the next two years are to build new friendships within and outside of The New School, find my niche in this ever expanding career and improve my knowledge of various design practices within our society.

Program Contact

Caroline Dionne, Program Director

Program Update

Parsons is not currently admitting new students to this master’s degree program. Parsons is now offering a Graduate Minor in Design Studies that is designed to complement the MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies and other graduate programs across the university in design, liberal arts, and social research.