Hello, Denise? Welcome!

About the MA Program


As my final post to the blog (sniff), I sat down with Denise DeLuca -the new Sustainable Design program director at MCAD– to capture her thoughts about this new chapter in her career. I know she is going to do an excellent job and wish her and the program the best for the future.

Cindy: I asked you to teach in the MASD program about 5 years ago. Tell us a bit about the courses you teach.

Denise: I have been teaching Biomimetic Design and Creative Leadership for the program for several years now.  Biomimetic Design leverages the many years of teaching Biomimicry workshops to a wide range of professional audiences — including the week long Introduction to Biomimicry course that you and I taught in Mexico back in 2008!  We call it Biomimetic Design to recognize that this course does not necessarily follow the way that The Biomimicry Institute and B3.8 teach and refer to Biomimicry. I love that this topic helps students gain a deeper understanding of sustainability and deeper understanding of the design process while learning an incredibly interesting approach to innovation.

The Creative Leadership course is based on the Leadership Inspired by Nature work that my colleagues and I at BCI: Biomimicry for Creative Innovation developed during my years living in the UK.  It was very insightful of the program founders to add this to the program, as I have found in my professional career that conventional approaches to leadership inhibit the kinds of practices and thinking needed to create and forward sustainable design.

Cindy: Why did you want to be the new director of the MASD program?

Denise: Over my career I have had the chance to work in different roles in private, public and non-profit sectors. With every position I find myself wanting to teach — or more accurately, wanting to create conditions conducive to learning.  Some of my greatest joy and satisfaction has come from helping enable, empower and equip others on their journey to make the world a better place. Cindy, you have done an amazing job of developing this pioneering program over the past several years, attracting devoted faculty and fantastic students. I’m excited about building on what you have developed, leveraging my diverse career experiences and networks.

Cindy: What are your plans to take the MASD program to the next level?

Denise: I have lots of ideas for taking the program to the next level! My plan is to share these ideas with MCAD staff, MASD faculty, students and alumni, as well as contacts from outside organizations to see which ones generate the most interest and energy. I’d like to explore ways to add more value to everyone that engages in the program, especially students, alumni and faculty. In doing so we’ll not only provide more value, we’ll expand our exposure and build our resilience. I’ll also look into expanding our engagement with international organizations, networks and activities. As a 100% online program this will be far easier for us than for other programs. MCAD’s Sustainable Design program is pioneering in several ways. I want to build on that to keep pioneering in what we teach, how we teach, and why we teach, and keep re-envisioning what really good looks like and continually drive toward that vision.

Cindy: How would you describe this program to a prospective student?

Denise: As the new Program Director, I’m going to have to get good at this! I would describe the program a bit differently to each person, depending on who they are and what they are looking for. That is one of the great things about this multidisciplinary program — it works well for a diversity of individuals. The program is designed both for people who have a background in design, and who do not (i.e., business, science, engineering, etc.,), and that want to understand and apply sustainable design principles and practices to their life’s work. It is designed to be accessible to working professionals who want to be able to get their Masters degree while still working full time. Unlike some other online programs, we engage with our students and create opportunities for them to engage with each other. We also strive to be holistic, empowering and equipping our graduates with the range of knowledge, skills, and understanding that we believe they need to be successful sustainable designers. The Creative Leadership and Making the Business Case courses are examples of that breadth.

Cindy: What is a piece of advice that you would offer to an incoming student?

Denise: There are two pieces of advice I give our students.  One is to get really good at time management. You’ll want to commit a full 20 hours a week each week of the semester. It is doable — we have students that work full time and have kids — but it takes planning.  The other is to get everything you can out of all that this program has to offer. Dive deep into your assignments. Pester your instructors, your advisor, even the Director. Make the most out of your thesis project and presentation. Engage with your fellow students. For the MASD program, students come first — take advantage!

I’d also encourage any prospective student to engage with us. Drop in on one of our webinars. Participate in our social media (Blog | Facebook | LinkedIn | Twitter ). Explore our course offerings and consider taking one and see how it works for you.


Image courtesy of the stranger in the Florence Building, Missoula, Montana. Thank you!

Cindy Gilbert / Former Director

Cindy is founder and director of Alula Consulting which specializes in innovative online and sustainability education projects for educational institutions, non-profits, and corporations. Recent clients include The Lemelson Foundation, VentureWell, Green Building Research Institute, University of Montana, PBS, Silverback Films, and more. Cindy has taught numerous courses and workshops, around the world and online, in the fields of biology, sustainability and biomimicry.

Cindy was the founding director of MCAD’s Sustainable Design program for 7.5 years which is home to the fully online, multidisciplinary MA in Sustainable Design (MASD) that is the first of its kind in the world. In this role, she fostered a culture of awareness and creativity through sustainable, innovative and collaborative design. Before MCAD, she served for nearly four years as the founding director of university education at the Biomimicry Institute where she developed and managed all higher education programs, including the professional certification program, annual education summits, affiliate and fellows programs, and design challenges. Cindy is based in Montana. Please contact her through LinkedIn.