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Moving Beyond Your BFA

A while ago I was asked by Dave Cushman, the brains behind ConnCreatives, to talk about my decision to get my masters degree from Pratt Institute. Mark Snyder of ObjectResonance and Bjorn Akselsen were also included in the piece. Below is an excerpt from the article:

Why did you decide to go back for your Masters?
I decided to get a masters to prepare myself for starting a business. The way I saw it — if I wanted to start a successful, long-term business, my ability to plan, manage and delegate would become more important than my ability to design.

Did you ever consider an MFA in graphic design?
No. It’s not that I don’t think that I can improve as a designer, but I believe in mentorships for that sort of creative growth. I’ve always sought out working relationships with creative professionals that I admire. I think you can get more out of being mentored — and it’s a lot less expensive.

Did you ever consider an MFA in graphic design?
No. It’s not that I don’t think that I can improve as a designer, but I believe in mentorships for that sort of creative growth. I’ve always sought out working relationships with creative professionals that I admire. I think you can get more out of being mentored — and it’s a lot less expensive.
Tell us about the Design Management program at Pratt, and your experiences with the program.

At the risk of sounding cliché, the program at Pratt is like anything else in life: The more you put in, the more you’ll get out. Classes are every other Saturday and Sunday for two years, with no Winter or Summer breaks. Needless to say, it’s very intense, especially if you’re maintaining a full-time job at the same time. However, it’s that intensity that draws the usually small group of students together as a tight-knit group.

The topics covered in the program range from accounting and law, to writing and presenting, to the management of people, organizational change and technology. Each class had a group assignment which would consist of a 15 – 20 page research paper and a 20-minute presentation of your paper. So not only was I learning about key business principles, I was simultaneously learning how to work with, manage and at times lead a group.

Aside from the schedule and the wide variety of business topics covered, the other thing about the experience that stands out is the extreme diversity of the students in class. I believe, with the exception of Antarctica, each continent was represented in class. In my experience, this variety of backgrounds and viewpoints is uncommon. That, however, is probably more a result of being in NYC rather than something specific to the Pratt program.

How has the degree helped you professionally and personally?
It’s very difficult to point to anything specific in either my professional or personal life and say, “that’s my degree talking.” It’s more of a collective confidence that I gained from having gone through the process of the program. If you’re confident about something, people tend to listen to you.

How has the degree helped you as an educator?
Having a Masters of any sort definitely opened some doors for me as an educator. And the confidence that I mentioned definitely helps me stand up in front of 15 students and speak about design for 3 hours, two days a week. I’m also in the process of developing a class in Design Management for Parsons.


What advice would you give a working designer considering an Masters degree?
Don’t expect the mere fact that you have a Masters degree to open doors for you. If you’re strictly looking to grow, you might do just as well challenging yourself professionally — change jobs, find a mentor, join a board of directors, etc.

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