Q&A: SCAD President Paula Wallace on Design Education Today

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In 1978, Paula Wallace paused her elementary school teaching career to found the Savannah College of Art and Design, selling her Volkswagen Beetle to help cover the costs. The university is now a leading art and design institution with 104 degree program, four international campuses, and a $85 million endowment. Following Interior Design editor in chief Cindy Allen’s recent visit to the campus to deliver a talk with designer Ghislaine Viñas, we sit down with Wallace—who has been president of SCAD since 2000—to hear her advice for aspiring designers and take on technology in the design classroom.

ID: What are the biggest challenges in the design profession, and how do you train students to be prepared for them? 

Paula Wallace: More than ever before, the design profession finds itself operating on a global scale, prompting internal and external communication challenges. Large, multinational design firms must be cognizant of language barriers and cultural context. You’ve got to get down in the weeds. You’ve got to listen.

With a student body representing more than 100 countries, SCAD is innately international, creating authentic opportunities for students to gain global perspectives on design challenges. For instance, during a collaboration with Disney to reimagine hotel rooms, a student from South America shared that in his culture, the typical travel group includes extended family—a fact that surprised even the professional design team.

See the full interview at Interior Design.

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