University of Minnesota’s College of Design Seeks Racial Justice Through New Initiative

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The murder of George Floyd has spurred a lot of change around the country, especially in Minnesota.

The University of Minnesota’s College of Design has created an initiative, Design Justice, which is meant to support the “retention and inclusion” of students of color by adapting policies, changing its admissions and making other changes to the college according to The Minnesota Daily.

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From The Minnesota Daily:

“In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, it became clear that we needed to think bigger with our commitment to anti-racism and address longer-term issues,” Carol Strohecker, dean of the College of Design, said. “The Design Justice Initiative is centered around addressing these longer-term issues.”

The College of Design plans on dedicating itself to anti-racism by using the new initiative to reevaluate its admissions practices and draw ideas and materials from social justice-involved organizations. In addition, the initiative will conduct curriculum mapping and auditing to ensure courses reflect multicultural perspectives and social justice values.

Terresa Moses is leading this initiative in her dual position as an assistant professor of graphic design and the director of the initiative. Moses said she would like to see Design Justice create a more inclusive pedagogy in the College of Design that breaks down the white supremacist and Eurocentric canon of design education.

“[Students will] have these experiences within their courses that allow them to broaden their worldview [and] understand how their own positionality will affect their outputs and designs,” Moses said.

I know that’s right.

A lot of universities around the country love to say “we encourage inclusion and diversity” but don’t take any real steps to ensure that inclusion and diversity are encouraged and practiced on their campus.

But through Design Justice, faculty and students are coming up with honest solutions to ensure that students of color on campus feel welcomed and comfortable while learning.

One of the solutions they are starting to implement this semester is a “cluster-hire” of professors within the College of Design that have experience in “diversity, advancing inclusion and creating a welcoming climate” per the story from The Minnesota Daily.

From Design Justice:

Our mission is to create anti-racist design approaches through cross-collaboration. Our vision for design justice centers on intentional community relationships that support anti-racist culture shifts, decolonized pedagogy, and the liberation of historically underinvested communities within design academia and industry.

According to The Minnesota Daily, candidates who come on from the cluster hire will join the Design Justice Collective, which is currently working to incorporate ideas into their syllabi that align with the goals and missions of Design Justice.

While equal opportunities and inclusion are often ideas that are discussed at predominately white institutions, it’s good to see that faculty of color at the University of Minnesota are taking it into their own hands to ensure that students of color are learning about design in a way that benefits them and not just white students.