Meta Newhouse, Montana State University, and DSEL (Design Sandbox for Engaged Learning)
Patricia Murphey, Northern Arizona University, and VisualDESIGNLab

Interdisciplinary collaborations are intrinsic in Design—and are increasingly part of the daily life of a design educator. As such, we collaborate with our colleagues on research opportunities, we partner with clients; academic departments; and non-profit organizations, and we work relentlessly to expose our students to interdisciplinary projects, knowing how impactful such experiences are for their education and for their future professional lives. We decided to join forces and share our experiences of scholarly and project based collaborations and the process and struggles we encountered in our universities during the course of each endeavor.

With similar interests but different academic settings and departmental realities, we came together with the purpose of revealing our stories of collaboration, in research, in teaching and in the intersection of the two. Looking at our own institution’s mission and strategic plans, their differences, similarities, barriers and incentives, our own collaboration will result in suggestions of ways in which you can educate your departments, promotion and tenure committees and upper administration on the value of collaborative work.

We believe the countless hours of searching for meaningful and fruitful connections for cross-pollination should be recognized and rewarded by any institution of higher education. We’ve had some moderate success ourselves, in that we’ve brought in over 200K in grant funding and started design labs that focus on design thinking and civic engagement. We’ve walked the walk, and are now prepared to talk the talk on how others can strengthen their abilities as advocates for collaborative research and learning.


Meta Newhouse is an award-winning creative director, graphic designer, and filmmaker with over 20 years of experience in the visual communication industry.

She has worked for clients such as The American Heart Association, Dallas County Community Colleges, FedEx/Kinkos, GTE/Verizon, Motorola, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Meta has been a design educator since 1995 and currently is the Founding Director of the DSEL (Design Sandbox for Engaged Learning) at Montana State University. She is passionate about typography and consistently presents workshops around the country (and the world) on topics such as experimental typography, type in the vernacular and how to overcome creative blocks.


Patricia Murphey began her career as a graphic designer 25 years ago. She holds a MFA from The Academy of Art University–San Francisco, and a BFA from Faculdade da Cidade–Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Patricia has worked as a designer and art director in Chicago, San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Flagstaff, Arizona.

In 2001, she moved to Flagstaff to teach, and is now an Associate Professor in the Visual Communication and President Distinguished Teaching Fellow at Northern Arizona University. Her focus is on teaching design in a collaborative, interdisciplinary environment. Her passion is to inspire design students to be responsible professionals that positively impact society. At NAU, Patricia founded the VisualDESIGNLab, a design studio where undergraduate students engage in collaborative projects with local community partners.