2015 Archives

SMU Lyle Master of Arts in Design and Innovation to bridge flexible thinking, problem-solving across disciplines

Students to bring core skill set, learn broad, human-centered approach

March 17, 2015

DALLAS (SMU) – Grounded in the concept of human-centered design, SMU will offer a new Master of Arts in Design and Innovation (MADI) beginning Fall 2015 through its Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering.  But make no mistake – it’s not a typical engineering degree.

SMU Innovation GymGrounded in an approach known as “design thinking,” MADI will provide a toolkit for people working outside the typical design environment. Coursework and project-based learning experiences will teach participants to combine what people need with the nearly limitless possibilities of technology and the economic requirements for business success through design research, idea generation, and rapid prototyping. 

“Some of the most successful CEOs in the world are crediting the concept of ‘design thinking’ as a breakthrough approach for solving systemic problems,” said Lyle School Dean Marc Christensen.  “Our undergraduates have been thriving on a no-barriers approach to problem-solving through competitions and projects organized in our Deason Innovation Gym.  Expanding on our undergraduate success, the Master of Arts in Design and Innovation is a great way to introduce our students to a framework and methodology for innovating and designing, which will have impact wherever their career takes them.”

Kate Canales, director of Design and Innovation Programs at the Lyle School, will lead the program.  A Stanford University mechanical engineer, Canales spent her early professional years with global design and innovation firm IDEO, where she helped pioneer the use of design thinking as a means of building the capacity for innovation within companies. She arrived at the Lyle School in 2012 after working as a consultant and as creative director at frog design - another industry leader. 

“The process and the skills these students learn will make them much different job applicants,” Canales said.  “It’s about confidence and approaching problems in ways that are not typical.  And while many engineering students will see this as a natural progression in their studies – it’s not a degree just for engineers. It’s a great fit for people pursuing careers in fields as different as business, the arts, advertising and the social sciences.”

MADI students will be able to take advantage of an unprecedented multidisciplinary approach that opens up relevant electives across SMU departments and schools on campus for the first time. The curriculum pulls from the Lyle School’s civil and environmental engineering, mechanical engineering and computer science departments, as well as advertising through SMU’s Temerlin Advertising Institute, entrepreneurship through the Cox School of Business, anthropology through Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and arts entrepreneurship and creative computing through the Meadows School of the Arts. 

Gil Metzger, director of Advanced Technology Development at Lockheed Martin (and chair of the Lyle School’s Electrical Engineering Advisory Board) says “there is broad support throughout industry for the advanced skill set that MADI will deliver.  There are a lot of graduates out there who can solve problems - once the problem has been defined within some context,” Metzger said.   “However, there are many times when the problem itself is not evident and/or the context of the problem is far from clear.  Identifying that there is a problem (or need) and finding new and novel ways to address it is as much art as it is science.”

The degree will require completing seven courses and two design studios for 31 semester hours of credit.  MADI will be based within the office of the dean of the SMU Lyle School of Engineering under Multidisciplinary Studies.  By offering the degree as a master of arts, rather than a master of science, the Lyle School intends to draw students with a variety of backgrounds who will lean heavily on their undergraduate training and/or professional backgrounds.  The initial target audience for the degree is current SMU undergraduate students; however the program is open to anyone interested in this type of master’s degree as a way to expand their career options.  

The first information session for the program will be held on Tuesday, March 24 at 5 p.m. Register for the event at www.smu.edu/madi.

Find out more about the MADI program at www.smu.edu/madi or by contacting the SMU Lyle graduate recruiting office at 214-768-2002.