Waiting For Design


There’s a quote that says, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Although there is much speculation behind the quote’s validity, three things in it, are clear to me. First, there is a specific time frame attached to the relationship between the student and teacher. Secondly, this relationship has specific learning objectives for the student. And lastly, every student needs a teacher, which I find particularly true if you’re a design student.

The problem in the design industry, lies in the fact that there are not enough African-American design teachers for all of the African-American design students. There are even fewer design teachers if you want one that mirrors your background and cultural ethnicity. For many students —especially when in unfamiliar surroundings— it’s just easier to relate to someone that has similar physical characteristics to yourself. The Higher Education Arts Data Summary (HEADS) reports there are 10,294 (5.9%) African-American design students and only 311 (4.2%) African-American design teachers. At this rate each teacher would have to be responsible for teaching 33 students at one time to educate all the current students. Imagine this… a classroom of thirty-three design students sitting at drafting tables with two hands each, to ask one teacher a question. So with there being 30% more African-American students to African-American teachers, where will the teacher be when the student is ready? How much time will this teacher honestly be able to spend with each student? How can you meet learning objectives with 33 students in a classroom? Even the US government only allows one licensed care provider of teenagers to have 10 students at one time. If there is any validity to the quote “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear” and the faculty and student data from the HEADS report is correct, then African-American design students wanting African-American design teachers will just have to wait.

Jacinda Walker is a designer, entrepreneur and instructor with over 20 years of industry experience, who calls Cleveland, Ohio home. She believes that “participation is the key to success.” Her work ranges from designing publications to educational programming and event management.

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