All of Parsons' research activities are intended for application beyond the classroom. A wide range of curriculum-related exhibitions, public programs, and publications bring students, scholars, and national and international audiences together to discuss work being conducted at Parsons and its relevance to the issues of the day. Many of these activities are coordinated through the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, whose mission is to generate dialogue on the role of art and design in responding to contemporary sociocultural conditions.
While dedicated centers carry out research in specific areas, project-based research emphasize tangible outcomes. Parsons collaborates with community, industry, educational, and government partners on these projects. Activities range from systematic theoretical inquiries emphasizing participatory design approaches to practice-based projects in which artists and designers investigate creative possibilities within a rigorous methodological framework.
Parsons places research at the center of the learning experience. At the Parsons Institute for Information Mapping, participants can be found debating the merits of various electronic medical records systems or refining a data visualization tool for members of Congress. At the DESIS Lab, researchers propose plans for new community gardens, co-housing, and other sustainability initiatives for the Lower East Side. PETLab designers create Facebook games that promote social entrepreneurship among young people around the world, while the Center for Transformative Media develops a game-based curriculum for a New York City grade school.
Faculty and students in Parsons’ expanding group of graduate programs work with colleagues from every division of the university, including those in anthropology, liberal arts, sociology, management, and urban policy programs. These collaborations prepare students for real-world teamwork, increasingly being recognized as an effective way to respond to current social, political, and economic conditions.