Systems Thinking, it’s really a mindset!

Alumni in Action

I recently had an opportunity to speak with my friend and former classmate, Noble Cumming who graduated with a Master of Arts in Sustainable Design in 2013. He is currently living in Brooklyn, New York and teaching design and sustainability at Pratt Institute.

Q: What are you currently doing or working on?

Creative Director at NYC Mayor’s Office.

Q: What is the most exciting or inspiring thing you’re working on now?

Teaching Design and Sustainability at Pratt.

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

Just being one of the first graduates of our MASD program! College is/was always a place of hope for me. As I was asked to teach this course at Pratt, the department was really excited to have someone bring new energy to the table. Even with the small projects I’ve done, I was still able to point them to ideas and solutions they couldn’t envision through traditional approaches. Additionally, I was able to point them to colleagues from the MASD program. I hope this grows our community many times over!

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

Really, I want to see how this teaching position grows. Pratt’s undergraduate programs are world class yet the communications department lags behind in sustainability. So really the only way to go is up!

Q: How have you applied what you learned in the program?

What haven’t I applied? ! Last week, I had a whole class dedicated to Buckminster Fuller. I was shocked that they didn’t know who the “OG” of sustainability was, so I had MASD’s very own Curt McNamara come and speak. It’s an amazing feeling to show someone “Bucky” for the first time. It reminds me of when I first learned about him and how inspired I was.

Q: What were the most important or useful things that you learned in the program?

Systems Thinking. More than a strategy, it’s really a mindset, once you comprehend it totally. It can be applied in so many ways and your solutions are far more stable and robust than they otherwise would be.

Q: What did you learn in the program that you wish everyone would learn?

Systems Thinking. See above.

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

Get ready. It can be challenging, but ultimately rewarding not just for the client but for your own mental health. Knowing that your work “helps” the world, is a grand thing for the designer.

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

Methane leaks. It’s right there at our feet and we could really mitigate it with the right effort. This is really where designers and media experts come in. It is just one problem, but it’s impact grossly outweighs the effort required to fix it.

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.