Dr. Laura Cole Joins our Faculty

September 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

Our new faculty member, Dr. Laura Cole, recently received her doctoral degree from the University of Michigan and has some great stories to tell about her prior experiences and thoughts of the future.

1.  What motivated you to enter the field of design education? What do you find most exciting about teaching design studios?

Since my undergraduate education in interiors, I have always been interested in the social and psychological dimensions of interior design. While I loved working in professional practice, I also found it difficult to nurture my intellectual interests while engrossed in a fast-paced corporate practice. When I returned to school for graduate studies, I found that I had an aptitude and passion for teaching and research. From there, a career in design education was a natural path for me to follow! I love the studio model used in design education because it is the ideal venue for creativity and synthesis of many different kinds of knowledge. We can engage in design activities that are difficult to do in professional practice — from pursuits of extreme creativity to pro bono work for clients who typically cannot afford design services. These are some of the aspects of studio that I find most exciting.

2.  What do you feel you can bring to the educational environment from your time with Perkins+Will?

Having worked at Perkins+Will, I have a sense for the qualities that such firms seek in emerging professionals. My assignments and evaluations of students are designed to help students develop and refine those qualities so that they can enter high quality firms post-graduation and thrive once they are there.

3.  What message do you hope to convey to your students as an educator here at UNCG?

There are two threads that course through my teaching and research: 1) design is for people, and 2) all aspects of design affect our natural environment. I hope my students leave UNCG with a basic understanding that design affects matters socio-cultural, psychological, and environmental.

4.  How would you describe your design style and approach? Who or what inspires you?
Because my basic philosophy of design incorporate the ideas above, I would describe my approach as place-based. I have a very broad sense of aesthetics that crosses stylistic boundaries, and I am most inspired by authentic designs that are connected to place — and especially in contexts where designers have attempted to address issues of social justice. The late Samuel Mockbee of the Rural Studio is one individual who comes to mind, but there are many others like him.

5.  Where do you see the future of architectural education going?

I am very concerned about the future that we seem to be “sleep walking” into, as Howard Kunstler put it. I believe that social and ecological crises over the next decades will shape the landscape of opportunities in all disciplines, and no less in Architecture. As design educators, I believe we have a responsibility to prepare students for future uncertainties. To me, this is more about fostering qualities such as creative thinking and emotional resilience than it is about teaching specific technologies.

Contributed by Paige Hohlt, [4th] year

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