Akshay Sharma, IDSA
Chair, Design for the Majority Special Interest Section
Faculty Advisor, IDSA Student Chapter at Virginia Tech
In 2017, Akshay Sharma, IDSA, was named the new chair of the Industrial Design Program at Virginia Tech's School of Architecture + Design. “I want to focus on making the program the best ID program in the whole world,” he tells Virginia Tech News. “We have all the ingredients for that. The ID program is the place where we do things that people only talk about. My ambition is to talk as little as possible and to show what we are capable of.” The faculty advisor to the IDSA Student Chapter at Tech also serves as chair of IDSA's Design for the Majority Special Interest Section.
Sharma initially joined Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies’ School of Architecture + Design in 2004. His research and outreach focused on empowering the impoverished. Partnering with students, colleagues and global organizations—he led award-winning, grant-funded interdisciplinary projects, including a microfinancing and financial literacy program for illiterate women in India; a smartphone system to track children’s vaccination records in developing nations; and a foot measurement system to help underprivileged amputees order free prosthetics.
“No matter how rich or poor you are, your aspirations are identical,” he says. “I teach students about the process of design based on mindset, empathy and identifying a question worth answering—not mass production. We challenge our students to design something for social impact that is so excellent they’d want to use it themselves," says Sharma, who earned the Diggs Teaching Scholar Award and University Excellence in International Outreach Award.
Sharma took a position at Autodesk as senior design education evangelist, forming partnerships with universities. But he couldn't stay away from his Hokies for long. "We’re delighted Akshay has returned to Virginia Tech to lead the industrial design program,” says Hunter Pittman, director of the School of Architecture + Design. “Akshay’s passion for teaching design as a way of doing good in the world has left a profound impact on our students and Virginia Tech. He partners across disciplines and industries to solve problems in a way that deeply reflects our university’s mission to serve.”
Now, Virginia Tech News reports Sharma already is forging collaborative projects with campus, industry and international partners—including his former employer, Autodesk—to solve the next big problem. Sharma also has teamed up with Tech's computer science faculty to lead students on a project to improve cybersecurity for senior citizens. “His goal is using design to make the world a better place," says Ben Knapp, director of Tech's Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology. "He involves industry and works across science, art, engineering and design to find creative ways to make that happen."
Originally from India, Sharma earned his bachelor's degree from the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi and his master's degree in design from Arizona State University.