Student Profiles

Published on: July 10th, 2012

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.