This multidisciplinary seminar course covers historical and contemporary contexts of socially engaged work within art and design disciplines. Students explore various processes that artists and designers use to address, influence, and inspire change around systemic social issues. Through in-class collaborative workshops, students apply a “systems thinking approach” to a select number of real-world social issues. This course includes a final group project completed in partnership with a local community-based organization where students apply creative-problem solving processes such as human-centered design, equity-centered design, design activism, and social justice to arrive at collective impact. Models of social change from social entrepreneurship and innovation, non-profit models, and public-interest design are featured through guest lectures, field trips to community-based organizations, case studies, readings and written reflections.

Past Guest Lecturers 

Yvonne Osei

Yvonne Osei is a Ghanaian artist living in the United States. Her transnational practice explores the topics of beauty and colorism, the politics of clothing, and how global trade and colonialism impact post-colonial West African & Western cultures. As a Visiting Artist Scholar, Osei has been invited to Pentecost University in Accra, Ghana, Sterling College in Kansas, Indiana University Bloomington and TEDxGatewayArch in St. Louis. She led a Scientist-Artist Collaborative titled “Fashion and the Brain” through the Missouri Institute of Mental Health at University of Missouri in St. Louis. Osei is the 2016–17 Romare Bearden Graduate Minority Fellow at the Saint Louis Art Museum and the inaugural Curator-In-Residence for the Millstone Gallery at the Center of Creative Arts. Her solo exhibitions “Who Discovers the Discoverer?” and “Sea to Shining Sea” were recently on view at the Bruno David Gallery, where she is represented.

Geoff K. Ward

Geoff Ward is Professor of African and African-American Studies and faculty affiliate in the Department of Sociology and American Culture Studies Program at Washington University in St. Louis. His scholarship examines the racial politics of social control and the pursuit of racial justice, historically and today.

His current projects examine broader histories of racist violence, their legacies, and implications for repair. To these ends, Ward is also a founding member of the Reparative Justice Coalition of St. Louis, a community-based organization working to commemorate histories of racist violence, and to address their legacies in our region.

Rachel Roberts 

Rachel graduated from Wash U in 2019 with majors in communication design and cultural anthropology. In college, she became determined to bridge her passions for art and community building. She formed this path by interning with the Gephardt Institute, pursuing an arts & social change study abroad program, and then helping get the Arts as Civic Engagement fellowship off the ground as an inaugural community arts fellow in 2018. Even though the Creative Practice for Social Change (CPSC) minor didn’t come into fruition until the end of her college experience, Rachel is thrilled to see Wash U & Sam Fox establish more creative, interdisciplinary paths for students. She also enjoyed playing a role in the early formation of the CPSC program as a research assistant to Penina. Currently, Rachel works as a legal advocate and organizer, and pursues varied opportunities to do design and storytelling work for nonprofits as a freelancer and volunteer. She loves talking to students who are similarly exploring (and sometimes struggling!) with merging creative and community-based work.

Heather Testa 

Heather has a personal commitment to improving lives through thoughtful, intelligent design. She founded Ten8 Group in 1997 with a vision of creating focus on using design to solve problems and build brand identities in three-dimensional space. She brings an engaging design perspective to a variety of environmental and interpretive graphics. Heather graduated from Carnegie Mellon with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design and is a founding member of the St. Louis chapter of SEGD/The Society for Experiential Graphic Designers. 

Scott Gerike

Scott is an educator, creative director, and graphic designer with extensive experience managing and designing large-scale brand identity related projects. He’s worked for Fortune 100 companies, nonprofits, and small start ups. He received his MFA from the University of Illinois and is a founding member of AIGA St. Louis/The Professional Association for Design and a standing member of SEGD/The Society for Experiential Graphic Designers.