After nearly a decade leading Parsons School of Design at The New School in New York, Joel Towers will step down as Executive Dean in June 2018 and take on a new role as University Professor. At WDCD Live Amsterdam (24 & 25 May) he will share his vision on the role of design and design education in the 21st century.

‘When you have a really tough day around this place, and occasionally there are some hard days, the first thing I do is I go down to the Making Center and I just walk through,’ Joel Towers recently told the The New School’s online newspaper. ‘The energy in that space, from the student who’s just there eating lunch, to the one who’s working on a project, to the group of them that are forming a new business, to the crazy wonderful things that are coming out of the various different new technologies or traditional technologies we have, it just changes my mood like that.’

It’s exactly this creative innovation that Towers has been stimulating during his two terms as dean. Towers is praised for his redevelopment of the school’s curriculum, focusing entirely on sustainable development and social engagement. In doing so, he prepared the leading art and design school for the next decades.

Informed citizens

‘We really want to teach students how to acquire new knowledge, be aware of the systems in which they are engaging, be informed citizens,’ says Towers. ‘I mean that in the broadest sense of the term, both socially and ecologically and in terms of their intergenerational responsibilities. Students should figure out how they use art, or design, or business to engage in those questions.’

Critical thinking and collaboration are at the heart of a Parsons education. But the school also focusses very much on making and experimenting, for which the Making Center was developed.

After stepping down as dean in June, Towers will take on a new prestigious role as one of only two University Professors at The New School. With this responsibility he will play a critical role in advancing the university’s leadership in research and teaching on policy and design-based solutions to climate change and the construction of healthy environments.

All the more reason to attend WDCD Live Amsterdam 2018, where Towers will share his thoughts and fact based knowledge on the role of design and creative innovation in addressing the biggest societal issues of our time.