If you are thinking about pursuing an MFA in Transdisciplinary Design, please read below for answers to frequently asked questions about the program.
What is Transdisciplinary Design?
We developed the Transdisciplinary Design graduate program to address large-scale, complex challenges that transcend disciplinary boundaries. Always working collaboratively, our students extend the boundaries of design practice, discovering new and innovative ways to catalyze social change. Students work frequently with external partners in both studio and thesis coursework, developing real-world approaches to complex problems.
Do you accept applicants who do not have undergraduate degrees in a design field?
Yes. Although most of our students have undergraduate degrees in a design field, we also accept applicants who do not. Typically these applicants have demonstrated an in-depth understanding of the design process, either from work experience or from personal academic development. We have, for example, accepted students with formal backgrounds in dance, journalism, business, social science, fine arts, radio, and the humanities.
What sort of portfolio is required for the application?
For a description of the portfolio requirement, please refer to the Admission Requirements page (see item 8 under "Required Materials").
The styles of portfolios submitted to the program are as diverse as the students themselves; so we encourage you to be thoughtful in the way you approach the documentation of your work. We are interested in the context of your work and the questions that fuel it, not just representations of the work itself. If you do not have a background in visual or design fields, we encourage you to include documentation that helps us understand how you work and how your work might involve design.
Many students ask whether they have to demonstrate that they are transdisciplinary designers already. The answer is no. We expect that most of our applicants will have focused on a single field of academic and professional development. It is fine for your portfolio to show the strength of that work alone. But also let us know, through your Statement of Purpose, how you see your work evolving while in the program and what questions or ideas you are seeking to explore.
How old is the program?
The program enrolled its first class of students in fall 2010.
How many students enter the program each year?
We enroll a class of approximately 20 students each year, which means that we have a total cohort of approximately 40 students (first and second year) in the program at any one time.
Can you describe a typical student?
Our students vary widely in age, ethnic background, and work experience. They have come from places such as Lebanon, Chile, Denmark, Brazil, South Korea, Canada, India, Mexico, Iran, and China. They range in experience from recent college graduates to professionals who have been working for 20 years. There is no typical student; the diversity of our students is part of what makes our program so exciting.
Can I complete the degree through part-time study or evening classes?
No. We do not have a part-time option at this time. The program is a full-time, two-year residency program, and most of our classes take place during business hours.
Can I take classes in other areas of The New School?
Yes; you are encouraged to take as electives courses offered by other programs within Parsons—such as Design and Technology, Design Studies, and Design and Urban Ecologies—and other divisions of The New School, such as Anthropology, Organizational Change Management, or Media Studies.
Can I work as a Research Assistant or Teaching Assistant while studying?
Yes; you can work as a research assistant during your first and second years in the program. During your second year, you can also apply to become a teaching assistant. The availability of positions is not guaranteed, though most students who want to work or teach are able to do so.
Can I work (outside Parsons and The New School) while I'm in the program?
Yes; many of our students do. However, we do expect that the program will be your first priority. We recommend, as a guideline, that students limit their outside work to 10-15 hours per week. International students may be limited to on-campus work by the terms of their visas and should contact International Student Services for further assistance and information.
What kinds of opportunities are available to graduates of the program?
Graduates of the program tend to move in three directions: 1) they work in established design consultancies; 2) they pursue entrepreneurial opportunities, starting their own businesses or working as independent consultants; 3) they find work as designers in fields such as education, health care, and public services.
In the third semester, you take Professional Communication, a course in which you develop a professional profile, network, and portfolio. You graduate from the program with a clear understanding of both the work they do and the field they want to enter.
Will all of my projects be collaborative?
Because we believe that we can address complex problems only through teamwork, all of our studio projects and many other assignments in our curriculum, including the thesis, are collaborative. We have developed an innovative format for the thesis, in which students work collaboratively on projects but also develop an individual methodology or approach.
Do your students work on real-world projects with external partners?
Yes; in many instances students work with external partners on studio and thesis projects. These partners range from transnational corporations to local community groups. We also have independent study projects that students can take on with external partners.
Can I visit the program?
Yes, we encourage you to visit us during the annual Grad School Expo and Open House event held at Parsons in the fall.
We invite students who visit at other times during the year to make an appointment to discuss the program, sit in on a class, and chat with current students. This does take some planning, and we recommend that you make appointments at least two weeks in advance to get the most out of your visit by meeting with the program leadership and sitting in on classes. To schedule a visit, contact Jamer Hunt, director of MFA Transdisciplinary Design, at firstname.lastname@example.org.