Dr. Barbara Brown Wilson is an educator whose extensive research in public interest design extends far beyond the classroom. Dr. Wilson believes being a ‘pracademic’, a term describing an educator who continues to be active in their respective field, allows her to fuse her practical and professional experience together with her teachings. She believes that the pressing problems impacting the public interest design world can only be addressed through the collective action of design professionals, educators, and students.
Dr. Wilson is co-founder of The Design Futures Student Leadership Forum — a five day gathering of students, educators, and professionals from various disciplines. This annual event brings together like-minded individuals from across the country to discuss issues relating to public interest design. The Forum consists of workshops on social justice and civil rights centered design seminars led by experts in a number of different fields. The event is sponsored by universities across the United States, and participating institutions send five students and one faculty member each year to participate in the Leadership Forum. The location of the Forum moves every year, with different institutions hosting in rotation. Not only does this event give students the opportunity to have their voices heard, but also allows faculty members to refine skills relevant to their curriculum, and professionals to share their work.
Dr. Wilson strongly supports programs that encourage students to expand their interest in public interest design. Many educational design programs for young adults often lack the beneficial long-term relationship that comes from working with a community partner. Because most programs are limited to a single semester, students are not able to fully participate in both the emotional and intellectual learning that is involved in typical lengthy public interest design projects. Dr. Wilson believes that it is important to sustain long-term goals and relationships between community partners and students, extending beyond the duration of the program. By encouraging student leadership and allowing students to become active in the decision-making process, Dr. Wilson hopes to transform the educational design system to better service both communities in need of design assistance and young professionals aspiring to make a difference.
We had a chance to speak with Dr. Wilson about her pioneering work on Social Design Insights. Join hosts Eric Cesal and Karen Kubey as they explore with Dr. Wilson how social design is taught, and how it can be taught better.
And don’t forget to check out Barbara’s recommendations for further study!
Books you should be reading: