The School of Design Welcomes Three New PhD Researchers


Starting in the Fall semester of 2021, the School of Design is thrilled to welcome three new PhD Researchers to our PhD program, Tricia Douglas, Fas Lebbie, and Matthew Wizinsky. The addition of these three new PhD Researchers brings the total enrolled in the School of Design’s PhD Program to 20, the largest cohort in the history of the program.

“I speak on behalf of all faculty and staff here in the School of Design when I say that we could not be more proud of our PhD in Transition Design, and the brilliant, thoughtful, and caring researchers that make it what it is,” said Professor Jonathan Chapman, Professor, Director of Doctoral Studies. “The PhD in Transition Design is an advanced research program for people committed to making a positive change in the world. Our program is flourishing, with 20 PhD researchers currently enrolled, each one fully committed to leveraging Design as a tool for sustainable transformation.”

“This last admission cycle saw us receive a record number of applications,” added Chapman. “Competition for places has never been so high. But we are not a competitive community, within ourselves. Once here, we push for cooperation rather than competition. We take great satisfaction in seeing each other succeed, and share the sting of rejection and failure when our colleagues experience it for themselves. We are one community of learners, working together. 

“I warmly welcome Tricia, Fas, and Matthew to our PhD community, and look forward to working with them in the coming years.”

Tricia Douglas

Tricia Douglas is a designer and an educator. She holds a masters in teaching from Johns Hopkins and an undergraduate degree in human development from Howard University. 

After attaining her masters in teaching, she worked as a classroom teacher within K-12 learning environments in Washington DC and NYC. Soon after, she supported education technology startups in applying methodical problem solving to address digital and tactile challenges facing educators and students. Most recently, she has worked with organizations, large and nimble, to deepen the scope of design and research investments in service of broader corporate initiatives.

While accelerating in her profession as a designer—working at increasing levels of abstraction, complexity and scale, she has maintained her commitment to teaching and development through adjunct and guest lecture roles at institutions like Lesley University, St. Johns University, and Kingsborough Community College. Over the years, she has developed events and curricula with an explicit intent to provide underrepresented candidates with the awareness, early education, and networks needed to effectively pursue a career in design. 

Having spent the entirety of her career in either education or design spaces, she is uniquely positioned to couple design theory with technological, policy, economic, and behavioral models to introduce unique and enduring transition pathways across the two disciplines. 

Intrigued by the work of Paulo Freire and bell hooks, she posits that the practice of designing a liberatory education for the 21st century must extend beyond the classroom as a boundary object and consider learning as a lifelong, transformational, and highly personalized experience. 

Fas Lebbie

Fas Lebbie’s character and identity as an African-American immigrant from Sierra Leone have greatly influenced his design & entrepreneurship practices. Fas’ identity, communicated to the world through his memoir Souvenirs of My Awakening, has gifted him with a unique voice.

His work in human-centered design (HCD) and entrepreneurship as an undergraduate at the University of Utah earned him a scholarship at the Parsons School of Design. Through studying Trans-disciplinary Design, and majoring in both Strategic Design & Management and Impact Entrepreneurship, Fas learned how to take an ethical and entrepreneurial approach to design.

The heart of his professional work has been in Product and Interaction Design. He has developed products as an entrepreneur and designer in the fintech industry, Big Data industry, nonprofit industry, and government agencies, as well as offering consulting for clients in the healthcare and social science spaces in the US. Fas has worked at the intersection between design and business, where he leveraged UX research, lean startup methodologies, and Systems Thinking to create interventions. While gaining this background, Fas founded his first startup:  Thought Cab Design Agency.

Most recently, Fas has shown his future-facing mindset, by using cutting-edge tools to advance design. As a Senior Product Designer, he worked in mixed reality spaces, leveraging VR, AR, and AI technology. Recently, Fas has furthered his connections to Africa with his most recent startup: Root Diamonds. This ethical diamond firm will invest in Sierra Leone’s human capital by keeping the entire diamond jewelry-making process in Sierra Leone and reinvesting the profits in future-proof education. 

Fas already has a professional and philanthropic background, using design for the betterment of the world. His non-profit, Fas Project, provides the basics for 4,000 African orphans while allowing them to show their creativity through skateboarding and surfing.

As a strategic and transdisciplinary graduate working at the intersection of systems design, entrepreneurship, and technology for social transformation, Fas is inspired by future-looking designers who strive to improve the world. In the design space, Fas finds inspiration from design thinkers like Dr. Jamer Hunt, Dr. Jonathan Chapman, and many others who deploy design with sustainability and sustainment in mind. Outside of design, Fas admires the recently deceased anthropologist Dr. Runoko Rashidi who spent his career advocating for Africa’s global presence by looking into disparate black diasporas and gave voice to countless black communities worldwide. 

Fas aims to bring the voice of a designer and an ethicist in the natural resource space across the African landscape leveraging Indigenous knowledge and appropriate technology as needed. His research focus aims at empowering local natural resource ecosystems to design Sustainable Systems (SS) - Specifically Distributed Natural Resources Systems.

Matthew Wizinsky

Matthew Wizinsky is a designer, educator, researcher, scholar, and a lecturer on contemporary design practices and research. He was formally trained in graphic design at the University of Cincinnati (BS), the University of Illinois at Chicago (MFA), and the Institute of Visual Communication (FHNW) in Basel, Switzerland, and holds professional certification in strategic Foresight from the University of Houston. Wizinsky has over 20 years of professional design experience, ranging from digital start-ups to international commercial agencies to in-house studios for major cultural institutions. In 2009, he established an independent studio and consultancy in Chicago. He has worked for global commercial clients; he has co-curated and/or designed exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Cultural Center, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and Cincinnati Art Museum; and he has contributed to the Venice Architecture Biennale (2018), International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF 2014) in New York, and Exhibit Columbus (2019) in Columbus, IN.

Wizinsky began his academic career in 2012, with joint teaching (School of Design) and research positions (Innovation Center) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), positioning his academic work at the intersection of design education and interdisciplinary, practice-based research. At UIC, Wizinsky was Founding Director of the Responsive Media Lab. He has lead research collaborations with the Colleges of Medicine, Engineering, Business, and Learning Sciences that resulted in externally funded research, patents, and curricular offerings working with partners including the City of Chicago, Morningstar financial services, Ford Motor Company, Baxter medical products, Herman Miller, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Arts Alliance of Illinois to name a few. In 2015, Wizinsky joined the faculty of the Ullman School of Design at the University of Cincinnati, where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in design research methods, communication design, user-experience design, strategic foresight, generative design, speculative design, and design history. He has also lead curricular development in practice-based Foresight research, Speculative Design, interaction design with Augmented Reality, and Honors Courses in transdisciplinary research on urban and digital futures.

Wizinsky’s interdisciplinary collaborations have included work with researchers in the Social Sciences, Digital Humanities, Architecture, and Public Health. His research, scholarship, and creative works have been awarded, exhibited, published, and presented internationally. Wizinsky has participated in research and practice-based projects supported by approximately US$1.5 million in grants, commissions, sponsored projects and studios, including support from the Mellon Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Humanities Without Walls, MAC Cosmetics AIDS Fund, People’s Liberty, and others. Wizinsky is an Associate Editor for Visible Language, the oldest peer–reviewed academic journal for design, in publication since 1967. His first monograph, titled Design After Capitalism, diagnoses challenges for design practices operating in an evolving information and service economy and proposes a modified disciplinary model, blending design entrepreneurship with social empowerment through the development of community economies. The book will be published in Spring 2022, by the MIT Press.

The School of Design wholeheartedly welcomes Tricia, Fas and Matthew and we can’t wait to see what the bring to our community.

More info at the PhD in Transition Design >>

Meet our other PhD Researchers >>

Date Published: 
Thursday, August 26, 2021
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