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WSSU, UNCSA create four research design studios at CDI

Center for Design Innovations building illuminated at night
The studios will be based at the Center for Design Innovation (CDI), a multi-campus research center for the University of North Carolina System located in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

Faculty from Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) are partnering to create four interdisciplinary design studios that will tackle some of the biggest problems facing the region: equity, mobility, scientific literacy, education and environmental resilience.

The studios will be based at the Center for Design Innovation (CDI), a multi-campus research center for the University of North Carolina System located in Winston-Salem's Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

The faculty-led studios represent a new approach for CDI, said Jim DeCristo, vice chancellor for economic development and chief of staff for UNCSA and interim director for CDI.

“Each studio will bring together students, faculty, and community leaders across disciplines to develop meaningful solutions to contemporary challenges,” DeCristo said. “The studios will help UNCSA and WSSU reimagine education and research with design as the central tool.”

The studios will allow the two Winston-Salem-based UNC institutions to pull from each other’s strengths, he said. WSSU brings its strong reputation in areas of health sciences, STEM, and social justice, and UNCSA, in art and design.

Each studio has its own area of activity and approach, and is focused on disciplines crucial to Winston-Salem’s economy: health, art, design, medicine, and education.

These four studios have been created: 

  • Spatial Justice Studio: This studio focuses on exploring alternative possibilities for urban areas and ways to achieve more equitable urban futures through active research, engaged teaching practices and community-based participatory research. The studio is led by Dr. Russell Smith, professor of geography at WSSU.
  • The Health+Art (HeART) Studio: This studio aims to bring health and the arts together to develop strategies and approaches that address total wellness – mental, physical, emotional, spiritual – across diverse communities. The studio is co-chaired by Dr. Melicia Whitt-Glover, executive director of WSSU’s Center of Excellence for the Elimination of Healthcare Disparities (CEEHD), and Dr. Tanya Walker-Bethea, assistant professor of English at WSSU.
  • Information Design Studio: This studio will bring together students and faculty through information design, which includes film, graphic arts, virtual and augmented reality, music, dance, and animation, to express the results of new research at CDI and partner institutes. The studio is led by Dr. Nick Hristov, associate professor of biological sciences at WSSU.
  • Higher Education Design Studio (HEDstudio): Recognizing that the design process offers powerful tools for high-impact learning, the HEDstudio will bring diverse students, faculty, and professionals together into transdisciplinary research and design of performances, exhibitions, multimedia publications, and more that contribute to public knowledge and literacy. The studio is led by Dr. Betsy Towns, associate professor in the Division of Liberal Arts at UNCSA.

Each studio has received $30,000 in start-up funding from CDI. The goal is for each studio to grow through grant and foundation funding, developing immersive, interdisciplinary research projects, DeCristo said. The studios will be supported by the UNCSA School of Filmmaking’s Media and Emerging Technology Lab (METL), and CDI-based Flywheel Coworking.

Elements of the concept were tested earlier this year, with leadership from CDI facilitating projects that brought together students, faculty and staff from WSSU and UNCSA, DeCristo said.

The new studios are already having an impact.

HeART Studio received an additional $24,500 Inter-Institutional Planning Grant from the University of North Carolina System for programming in September. In November, HeART Studio co-hosted the play “Daddy’s Boys,” which combines health and the arts to educate about prostate cancer in African American communities. About 900 people attended the free performance, which also included health screenings.

The Spatial Justice Studio established a fellows program for faculty and community members to support spatial justice community-based projects. In November, the HeART and Spatial Justice studios co-hosted an environmental justice seminar at WSSU featuring the Rev. William Kearney, a pastor in Warren County and community outreach manager for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

CDI was established in 2005 through a partnership between WSSU, UNCSA, and Forsyth Technical Community College.

About Winston-Salem State University
Winston-Salem State University fosters the creative thinking, analytical problem-solving, and depth of character needed to transform the world. Rooted in liberal education, WSSU’s curriculum prepares students to be thought leaders who have the skills and knowledge needed to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. Founded in 1892, WSSU is a historically Black constituent institution of the University of North Carolina with a rich tradition of contributing to the social, cultural, intellectual, and economic growth of North Carolina, the region and beyond. Guided by the motto, “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” WSSU develops leaders who advance social justice by serving the world with compassion and commitment. For more information, visit www.wssu.edu.

About UNCSA
The University of North Carolina School of the Arts is America’s first state-supported arts school, a unique stand-alone public university of arts conservatories. With a high school component, UNCSA is a degree-granting institution that trains young people of talent in dance, design and production, drama, filmmaking, and music. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system when it was formed in 1972. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.

actors on stage at K.R. Williams Auditorium

In November, HeART Studio co-hosted the play “Daddy’s Boys,” combining health and the arts to educate about prostate cancer in African American communities. About 900 people attended the free performance, which also included health screenings.

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