Jessica Burnham

Jessica Burnham

MFA, Director & Clinical Assistant Professor




  • Human-Centered Design: methods, ethics, and social impact
  • Design Research Strategies and Methods
  • Design Research and Applied Theory
  • Design and Community Engagement
  • Civic Design Integration
  • Community-Based Design
  • Design and Hospitality
  • Design Policy and Politics


Recent Workshops and Conference Presentations

  • United Way Social Innovation Incubator Program Development and Facilitation
    Workshops: From October 2023 to March 2024 working in collaboration with the United Way of  Metropolitan Dallas, Dallas College and eqAll to create and facilitate a multisession program for early stage, women-owned startup companies to refine their business objective and concept.
  • Strategic Structure for Collaboration
    Workshops: From May to September of 2022, facilitated 20 community engagement workshops to better understand the current state of collaboration at Southern Methodist University. Worked directly with Provost Loboa and her team as well as MADI alumni on this.
  • SMU Accelerating Student Success
    Workshop: September 20, 2022 facilitated a workshop to engage DFW area high school counselors to showcase current SMU student support efforts while also gathering critical feedback. Worked directly with the Associate Provost Sheri Kunovich and her team on this.
  • Human-Centered Design: An approach for Innovation
    Exec Ed Sessions: Regular rotation for the Cox Business School Executive Education Transformational Leadership Program


  • MFA in Design Research and Innovation Studies from The University of North Texas
  • BFA in Communication Design from The Metropolitan State University of Denver


Jessica Burnham has a BFA in Communication Design from the Metropolitan State University of Denver and an MFA in Design Research and Innovation from the University of North Texas. Her design interests lie in bringing design to unexpected places, like civic engagement, local governance, and other hyper-local efforts. Her research focused on transitioning from Communication Design to Designed Communication and her efforts led to creating a business association on Lowest Greenville Avenue called the Lowest Greenville Collective. This led to her role as the Executive Director of the Deep Ellum Foundation where she helped manage the neighborhood, designed public safety systems, and represented the area as large projects in the city came about. Currently, she is the Program Director and Clinical Assistant Professor of the Master of Arts in Design and Innovation (MADI) program at SMU. This program teaches students from all different backgrounds to use Human-Centered Design to creatively solve and improve unwieldy problems. Jessica lives in Richardson, Texas with her husband and three boys.

Honors and Awards

  • Innovation in Education – Finalist: 2020 DCEO Magazine and Dallas Innovates
  • Community Honors Award – 2019 American Institute of Architects
  • Information Literacy Stipend – 2018 SMU Libraries
  • Hunt Fellow – 2018 Hunt Institute of Humanities and Engineering