At Pratt’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS), sustainability isn’t just a passing thought or popular trend, it’s one of the cornerstones of our art and design educational curriculum. The Sustainable Design Certificate program led by Joelle Danant, with Tetsu Ohara’s guidance as Academic Consultant, provides the opportunity for students to learn the necessary skills and techniques to apply sustainable design practices and methods into their careers and professional work. This program features an exceptional team of faculty which includes Tetsu Ohara, Kat Choate, Daniel Penge and Danielle Trofe. This dream team of educators possesses expert knowledge and experience in the fields of sustainable design, biomimicry and biodesign.
As a faculty cohort within the Sustainable Design Certificate Program at Pratt SCPS, they collaborate, co-teach and support all facets of the certificate program to ensure that students receive a first class educational experience in sustainable design. This month we are spotlighting this incredible team of accomplished designers and educators. Keep reading to learn more about each of these faculty members including their career achievements, pedagogical approaches, and what motivated them to become sustainable design educators at Pratt Institute.
Tetsu Ohara is an accomplished Designer and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Interior Design Department’s Graduate Program at Pratt Institute. As a FIPSE grant recipient, he serves as coordinator for the Pratt Sustainability Coalition (for the Annual Green Week Event Series). Tetsu began his Pratt journey in 2007. For well over a decade Tetsu has been teaching Pratt students about the inspiring world of biomimicry and sustainable design. As one of the leading educators at Pratt, Tetsu has had an immense impact across campus in supporting the education of future experts and leaders in these fields. This past summer, Tetsu served as the faculty adviser and mentor for a team of Pratt undergraduate and graduate students who participated in the 2019 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, an annual competition organized by the Biomimicry Institute, and the team won third place. To read more about the exceptional achievements made by these Pratt students check out this wonderful feature from Pratt News: Adaptations in Nature Inspire Students in Award-Winning Design to Reduce Food Waste.
Tetsu Ohara’s relationship with sustainable design began many years ago. As a child, Tetsu was most drawn to feature films produced by Studio Ghibli, the iconic Japanese animation film studio known worldwide for its animation feature films. He recalls having been particularly captivated by the important portrayals of “the symbiotic relationship between humans and nature” in films such as Nausicaa (1984). As an adult, Tetsu was able to travel the world which fueled his appreciation for its beauty. This discovery would inspire him to pursue a career path in sustainable design. Currently, Tetsu teaches Biomimicry in both the Graduate Interior Design Program (Pratt Interior Design Department) and the Sustainable Design Certificate program (SCPS) among other related courses at Pratt Institute.
Kat Choate began their journey at Pratt Institute as a student in the Bachelor of Architecture program, minoring in Sustainability Studies. As a student, Kat had the opportunity to learn from Professor Tetsu Ohara, in his Biomimicry course. Kat’s first teaching experience would be at Pratt two years ago, where they co-taught a course in the undergraduate architecture program. Soon after Kat received the opportunity to join the faculty within the Sustainable Design Certificate program at Pratt SCPS, where they co-teach with Daniel Penge.
As an educator, Kat Choate wants their students to see the challenges and obstacles the planet faces as opportunities to develop “creative design solutions”. The only way to guarantee a sustainable world for future generations is for the current generation of artists, designers and creative minds to “design it”. Kat believes that sustainable design is simply good design. A large part of their inspiration is influenced by how the field of design can and will impact the future. They are interested in “investigating the increasingly ambiguous boundaries between the built and natural environment.” Kat and their partner recently received an honorable mention for their entry into the 2019 Blank Space Project’s Outer Space competition. There are many exciting things on the horizon for them. This upcoming Spring semester Kat Choate and Daniel Penge will be teaching the Sustainable Design Foundation course, the Sustainable Design Theory & Practice course, and the Sustainable Materials and Processes course within the Certificate Program.
Daniel Penge is an alumnus of the Industrial Design program at Pratt Institute. He credits his portfolio of work and the network he has built as being directly influenced and shaped by his experiences as a student at Pratt stating, “knowing that I am continuing and expanding upon the work of my academic mentors keeps me galvanized in my efforts, enthusiastic, and informed.” He was excited to receive the opportunity to become a faculty member within the Sustainable Design Certificate program at Pratt SCPS. As a designer, Daniel believes his greatest professional achievement thus far has been collaborating with his peers to “pursue circularity endeavors.” These collaborative opportunities include getting to work with leaders in design at companies like Nike and IDEO.
As a faculty member in the Sustainable Design Certificate program, the message he hopes to impart to his students is “to leave our classroom with a new ability to see the world.” Daniel hopes that when his students become leaders in their respective fields that they frequently ask themselves “questions that break preconception, such as, “Sustainable for whom?” as well as understanding how design intersects and is interconnected with all other industries and almost every facet of life. Daniel’s deep interest and dedication to collaboration and teamwork is highlighted in his teaching collaboration with Professor Kat Choate.
Danielle Trofe is a Designer and certified Biomimicry Specialist, who holds a Master’s Degree in Biomimicry and specializes in biodesign and biomimicry. Danielle studied marketing and entrepreneurship as an undergraduate student and later returned to school to complete her master’s degree in biomimicry. She began her journey at Pratt Institute three years ago when she taught a biodesign studio course in the Industrial Design program. When reflecting on this experience Danielle recalls how intrigued and inspired she was, “to learn how to best communicate methodology as a designer moving into a teacher role. Working with students has been both inspiring and informative and continues to harvest growth and discovery in a realm that entertains many interdisciplinary possibilities.”
As a biodesign expert and educator, Danielle Trofe credits nature as the biggest influencer and motivator in both her personal and professional life. Her pursuit to study and learn about the natural world guided her towards biomimicry, biodesign and teaching. One of Danielle’s greatest professional achievements is being one of the first designers to work with “living mycelium–biofabricating a product line for commercial and retail markets may be one of my crowning achievements to date.” Currently Danielle teaches Biodesign Lab in the Sustainable Design Certificate Program at Pratt SCPS. As an educator, her intention is to break down the barriers preventing designers from being able to seamlessly foray into sciences. Her philosophy is that “you don’t have to be a scientist to do science.” This motto is infused in Danielle’s approach to teaching and she hopes to continue to share her expertise in biodesign to both educate and inspire her students at SCPS to pursue biodesign.
To learn more about the Sustainable Design Certificate program at Pratt SCPS (Brooklyn Campus) and to register for upcoming courses visit our website.
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