Student Spotlight

About the MA Program

Hilmarie Figueroa, a current student in the MA in Sustainable Design program, living in
San Juan, PR took some time out of her schedule to talk with me about being a student in this program.

What attracted you to MCAD’s MA in Sustainable Design program?

The program offered a well-balanced variety of sustainability approaches. Additionally, it was offered fully online and I did not have to uproot and move.

Has anything you’ve learned in the program changed your way of thinking?

I have learned that sustainability is more complex and detailed than it is made out to be. That it is not just one absolute solution and that input from the communities affected is crucial to sustainability and design.

Has anything you’ve learned in the program changed what you’d like to do with your career?

It didn’t change exactly what I want to do career-wise, but it did change how I might want to approach it.

What has surprised you about the program?

Although it may seem intimidating if you have no previous design or sustainability experience, it is actually not. It lays the groundwork for everyone in the program to learn the basics and grow from there.

Is there a class project or assignment that you are really proud of?

There are a few. I am really proud of my Practice of Sustainable Design course final project where I focused on making promotional merchandise more sustainable. As well as the final group project for the Collaborative Product Design course, where we worked on branding re-design for our client’s packaging. Finally, I am also really proud of the current project for the Climate Justice course where we are designing an Eco-Justice Curriculum for a community program’s summer initiative.

What are you currently doing or working on?

I am currently working on my thesis focused on food waste reduction in the local restaurant landscape in San Juan, PR. Additionally, working on my zine for the Climate Justice course which I hope to turn into a full time part of my blogging and content creation project.

What is the most exciting or inspiring thing you’ve learned in the program so far?

How many people there are that really care about doing what we can to protect our planet and how we are all tackling different ways to do that to contribute to the whole.

What has been your proudest moment or project in sustainability or sustainable design?

I would say that being able to pass the thesis proposal and actually start working on my thesis project. I think I will be very proud of the journey and that result as well.

What sustainability or sustainable design projects are you looking forward to working on?

I am looking forward to the final campaign project for the Design for Climate Justice course.

How have you applied what you learned in the program?

I have applied what I have learned so far to my day to day life and how I understand news, studies and the selection and purchase of products.

What have been the most important or useful things that you learned in the program?

Life cycle assessments and working with impacted communities instead of assuming what the solution to their needs are as to avoid false solutions.

What have you learned in the program that you wish everyone would learn?

Same as above, life cycle assessments and working with impacted communities instead of assuming what the solution to their needs are as to avoid false solutions.

What recommendations do you have for people considering a career in sustainable design?

To be open to having your worldview changed and challenged and to not be intimidated, especially if you have no previous experience.

If you had a magic wand and could completely solve one sustainability problem, what would it be?

Food waste and/or plastic pollution

Thank you, Hilmarie!

Dawn Keene / Director

Dawn Keene is the president of Studio Change, a company offering sustainability consulting services. Prior to Studio Change, Dawn has served as president of Keene Design, Inc. an award-winning Atlanta-based firm specializing in graphic design for over a decade.

Her previous affiliations have included High-Performance Healthy Schools Committee for USGBC Atlanta (United States Green Building Council), serving as the membership chair and on the sustainability committee for AIGA Atlanta (American Institute of Graphic Arts AIGA.) Her work has been featured on Sustainable Brands and published in Graphic Design U.S.A. In addition, she has participated in panel discussions on various topics such as environmental design and community outreach.

Her life mission is to empower communities and individuals to take positive action towards building a more sustainable future through education and community outreach. She holds a BFA in Graphic Design from Georgia State University and graduated from MCAD’s MA in Sustainable Design program in 2013.