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Transformative Teaching

Focus on Pedagogy 2022
After-Care: A Cross-Cultural Classroom to Practice Empathetic Design
A. Sosa Fontaine & T. Patel
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm


Design education is at a significant crossroads. The contemporary global concerns like the ongoing pandemic, the climate catastrophe, and demands for action in response to the historical and current marginalization of BIPOC populations, educators are facing complex decisions about how to respond through design curriculum. While there has been a shift at the institutional level to include initiatives for diversity, equity, and inclusion, there has been a mixed response at the program level. Some educators have diversified course content, introduced complex subjects, and expanded studio pedagogy. An apparent solution in design education is the integration of community engagement projects in the design studios, either on a passive or active level. What other teaching methods and approaches are there to educate our students on these complex issues and make them empathetic thinkers? This presentation will focus on one such unique approach—a joint elective course between two undergraduate interior design schools in the US and Lebanon. This elective titled After-Care, considered ideas of how designers build empathy and care for people and the built environment impacted by socio-political and ecological climates, turmoil, and conflicts. Our students learned to communicate across cultural and spatial divides through facilitated exercises that prompted them to listen to each other’s stories and understand their diverse lived experiences. Students elected to take this course based on their own keen interest in complex societal issues in the built environment. However, through exposure to diverse perspectives, difficult conversations, and new connections to peers on the other side of the world, they learnt to practice design with empathy and care.


Andrea Sosa Fontaine is an Assistant Professor of Interior Design at Kent State University. She has practiced Interior Design in both Canada and the US, where she designed schools, community centers, workplaces, and healthcare facilities. She understands that the root of good design is through community engagement. Andrea teaches her students diverse and non-linear methods of design to foster the tailoring of design practices to unique community needs. Her research has focused on modifications to the practices of design to foster equity and respect for future memory in the built environment.

Tina Patel is an Assistant Professor to the Interior Design Program at Kent State University. Her work examines the intersection of people, processes and the built environment. She has presented at conferences and published her research on learning environments for neurodiversity and underrepresented groups, impact of evolving workplaces on behavior and design pedagogy. Tina has established partnerships with community leaders, nonprofits and design practices dedicated to empowering communities to expand on teaching methodologies centered on community engagement. Her pedagogy aims to sharpen students’ understanding of others with different realities by utilizing on-going social and economic issues affecting our communities.