Meet the Faculty Directors: Professor Karen Fairbanks Introduces The Milstein Center’s New Design Center

designeducationstudents The Cheryl and Philip Milstein Teaching and Learning Center at Barnard College will be a new academic hub in the heart of campus, bringing students and faculty together, facilitating collaboration, and fostering dialogue when it opens for students this September. (The grand opening will take place on October 3.) The Milstein Center will provide a diverse range of innovative and essential resources that reflect the connections that lie at the core of Barnard’s educational philosophy. The 128,000-square-foot building will have innovative facilities and classrooms including a new library, a new home for the Barnard Center for Research on Women and the Athena Center for Leadership Studies, and seven academic centers to support students and faculty: The Empirical Reasoning Center (ERC), the Diana T. Vagelos and P. Roy Vagelos Computational Science Center (CSC), the Digital Humanities Center (DHC), the Movement Lab, the Media Center (MC), the Design Center (DeC), and the Center for Engaged Pedagogy (CEP).

One of the new academic centers, the Design Center, will serve as an incubator for creative making where students will experiment with, pilot, discover, and test new tools and practices. The Design Center will support the design of objects, as well as the pedagogy and learning associated with making. It will foster a “maker environment” on campus, collaborating and coordinating activity with other maker spaces across the campus and the University. The Center will encourage design-centered thinking across the disciplines and will collaborate with campus initiatives, such as sustainability, to develop supportive programs and associated workshops.

In this first installment of the interview series “Meet the Faculty Directors,” Karen Fairbanks, professor of professional practice in architecture and chair of the Department of Architecture—and the Design Center’s new faculty director—introduces Barnard’s new “maker space” (a space where students will make, test, and pilot new tools). Similar to Columbia University’s maker space, the Design Center will be open to all undergraduates and faculty. 

For those unfamiliar with maker spaces, what can they expect to see and do upon entering the Design Center?

The Design Center is an incubator for creative making—supporting the design of objects and the pedagogy and learning associated with making. Upon entering the studio space, you’ll see large moveable tables that can be rearranged to support all types of projects, whether hand tools or digital tools are needed. A second room houses the laser cutter, 3D printers, and paint spray hood. The Design Center staff will offer safety training for everyone using the tools and technologies. We expect continuous, creative work—students dropping in to work on their own independent design projects, workshops teaching specific skills, and classes doing a course-specific workshop. We expect it to be a busy hub of activity, inspiring everyone to experiment with making.

How will the Design Center help students and faculty better enhance their creative processes?

The Design Center will offer single-session workshops, mini-series for special projects, and support for various courses to give students and faculty opportunities to learn new techniques of making. Students will be able to find support for independent projects,

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