The current global instability presents an opportunity to move beyond prescriptive thinking and empower students with the necessary resources to become agents of change. The design educators should explore interiority as a tool to understand the world and project all voices. The paper presents the interior design studio as a case study where students researched ongoing social-political, economic, and cultural issues through multiple lenses and provided alternative activist visions to support the community and achieve social progress through their design response. Dewey saw education as a social process, emphasizing exploration of issue-based curriculum that deal with local and global concerns. Students and researchers acknowledge this method as one of the most significant instructional strategies educators may use to promote informed judgments and responsive behavior. The classroom can become an open environment where critical issues are constructively addressed that impact the quality of life of people who are disadvantaged due to conditions beyond their immediate control. Striving to fulfill the educator’s responsibility to produce democratic design citizens, this studio followed the democratic dispositions proposed by Dewey that all citizens are- moral equals, capable of rational judgment and action, and competent to work together to resolve conflicts and solve problems. Through multiple perspectives, debates, active participatory research, and embedding empathy studies, the students learned to develop informed opinions that resulted in socially responsible interior design solutions for the communities in need of incubator, pipeline, and shelter spaces. This studio is just the beginning as it encourages educators to take advantage of the current global turmoil to reposition interior design education through democratic pedagogy and process. It also advances our discipline and prepares our students to be compassionate global citizens, democratic thinkers, and community stewards.
Tina Patel is Assistant Professor in the Interior Design program of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, at Kent State University. She received her Bachelor of Architecture from India and her MA and MFA in Interior Design from Iowa State University. She has held academic positions of Professor at Algonquin College, Ottawa; Teaching Specialist in Interior Design at University of Minnesota, Instructor and Coordinator of Interior Design Program at South Dakota State University. Prior to teaching, Tina worked at Callison RTKL, Washington DC and Baltimore offices, SVPA Architects, West Des Moines and Solomon Codwell Buenz, Chicago. Her work examines the intersection of people, processes and the built environment. She has presented at national and international conferences and has published her research on learning environments for neurodiversity and underrepresented groups, impact of evolving workplaces on behavior and design pedagogy. Tina has established partnership with community leaders, non-profits and design practices dedicated to empowering communities to expand on teaching methodologies centered on community engagement. Her community engaged pedagogy aims to sharpen students understanding of others with different realities and unfamiliar experiences by utilizing current and on-going social and economic issues affecting our communities.