Ed Dorsa, IDSA
IDSA Education Award 2017
Associate Professor Emeritus, Virginia Tech
It’s a year that Ed Dorsa, IDSA, won’t forget anytime soon. In 2017, he capped more than three decades in design and design education by marking one milestone after another.
To the rousing applause of a room full of colleagues at the IDSA/Eastman Innovation Lab Education Symposium on Aug. 16 in Atlanta—Dorsa delivered "Educated Guesses on Design Education." Two days later at the IDSA International Design Conference 2017’s IDSA Awards ceremony, Dorsa was honored with the IDSA Education Award.
"I've taught design for 31 years now,” Dorsa tells IDSA. “And behind seeing my students graduate every year, winning the IDSA Education Award 2017 is the most rewarding event in my career."
Soon after the conference, Dorsa officially retired as associate professor and chair of the Industrial Design Program in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech—and was conferred the title of associate professor emeritus by the university’s Board of Visitors. In addition, he was honored with the College’s Lifetime Contribution Award. “A member of the university community since 1998, Dorsa is internationally known for his work in industrial design education,” touts Virginia Tech.
"I'm very proud of what we—the faculty and the students of the ID Program—were able to accomplish in a relatively short period of time,” says Dorsa. “Virginia Tech's Industrial Design Program is known and respected throughout the United States and our graduates have gone on to make an impact in some of the best design consultancies and corporate offices in the United States and abroad."
Dorsa was born in Cleveland, OH—but, with a father who worked as a construction engineer—moved around the world from Las Vegas to California and Indonesia to Paris and Holland, then returned to his native Ohio to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in industrial design from The Ohio State University.
He later taught design at Iowa State, Virginia Commonwealth and Arizona State universities before joining Virginia Tech, where he taught at all levels in the ID studio as well as materials and processes; CAD for ID; and design research—and led a National Science Foundation-funded studio in interdisciplinary product development, with faculty from engineering and marketing.
"With the exception of the administrative BS, it’s all been a blast," Dorsa declares. While he’ll miss the daily contact with students and colleagues, he still sees many of them as he indulges in what he describes as favorite pastimes: traveling, taking pictures and drinking beer.
Dorsa served as faculty advisor to the IDSA Student Chapter at Virginia Tech for more than a decade; district education representative; education VP on IDSA’s Board of Directors; and an IDSA International Design Excellence Awards juror. His writings have been published in IDSA’s INNOVATION magazine. In 2012 Dorsa received VT’s XCaliber Award, given to an interdisciplinary team for its use of technology in advancing student success. He also earned the School of Architecture + Design’s 2009 Excellence in Teaching Studio Award; 2006 College of Architecture and Urban Studies Award for Excellence in Outreach; and 2005–06 University Certificate of Teaching Excellence. In 2006, he was named one of the "Most Admired ID Design Educators" by DesignIntelligence.
Dorsa served for four years on the Commission on Accreditation for the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and authored or co-authored more than 16, peer-reviewed journal articles and conference papers.
His advice to the next generation of designers? "The profession of industrial design has changed dramatically in the last decade or so. And I expect it to change even more dramatically in the next decade,” he predicts. “Keep learning new stuff: UX, UI, coding, design strategy, new manufacturing methodologies and all the stuff that isn’t even on your radar yet. You never know what new skill is going to give you the edge."