Owen Foster, IDSA


Owen Foster, IDSA
Aether Global Learning & UT Chattanooga

Owen Foster's journey started as a farm boy in the cotton fields of Alabama, where he began dreaming of how to help the world around him become a better place. Today those dreams and life lessons that were instilled in him on the farm still fuel his passion and desire to make positive connections and contributions in his career.

Owen Foster, IDSA has an extensive background in architecture, landscape, environmental and industrial design. He has worked on projects ranging from small consumer goods to complete green municipal environments. After much success in those endeavors, he found that his calling was being an educator.

Owen started his education career with professorships at Auburn University and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette in the field of industrial design. He then moved on to hold the positions of ID Group Department chair (industrial design, design management, service design, design for sustainability, business of design, interaction design, and marine design) and professor at SCAD. Each year under his leadership tenure, the SCAD industrial design program was ranked in the top 10 by DesignIntelligence and Red Dot World Ranking and earned numerous awards from world-renowned competitions. Owen is currently the Director of Innovations within the Honors College at UT Chattanooga, working to establish a problem-based, community-embedded learning experience that challenges students to develop critical and design thinking skills, apply creativity, and foster collaborative leadership with the initiative of social impact.

As an educator, Owen has facilitated more than 20 cross-disciplinary collaborative studio projects with Fortune500 companies such as Coca-Cola, GE, and HP and guided international study abroad programs in Ireland, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China. In 2014, Owen was named one of the Top 30 Most Admired Educators in the Field of Design; IDSA Educator of the Year 2015; IDEA jury member for 2014-15 and 2015-16; and IDEA jury chair-elect for 2017.

In his most recent venture, Owen is a co-founder, director, and overall ‘Troublemaker’ of Aether Global Learning and SHiFT Design Camp. Partnered with an amazing team, they look to create freethinking empathetic practitioners who will passionately lead their local and global communities through logical discourse, sound strategic direction, and impeccable craft.  He strives to provide a world-class educational experience through platforms for discovery, creation, and reflection for the conglomerate of makers, thinkers, changers, givers, and leaders.

Owen is a mentor to many people, and he takes a lot of pride in that role. He believes every experience is an opportunity to learn something new and that the measure of success is commensurate with the amount of self-application. This approach has led him to be featured in many articles, interviews, and discussions around the world.



Statement of Candidacy (Education Council - South | 2022-2023)

I am truly honored to be considered for the role of South District Chapter Representative. But I began asking myself, what does that even mean? So, I started to reflect on what I have observed, all the countless conversations that I have engaged in, and the things I have dreamed about over the past two-plus decades as a practitioner, educator, and mentor. I found the message to be the same—design and design education together have the potential to grow, push, and lead the world in so many unique ways.

So how do we do that? What part do we play? For me, it's about creating an ecosystem that fosters deep passion, openness, curiosity, discovery, and mutual responsibility, and to provide an environment for learning, understanding, and sharing that gives people the opportunity to create amazing things. I hope to help foster communities and cultures throughout the South district, along with all other districts, through collaboration, creativity, and awareness. These communities will not just be the IDSA professional and student chapters but must include the amazing environments of which they are a part. We should all be excited to build new platforms and expand current programs that are collaborative, diverse, relevant, and equitable while stimulating a growth mindset.

It's my opinion that no one can do any of this alone. My approach is to be as open, transparent, and visible as possible. I will ask for feedback and input from a broad population of constituents: faculty and students, local chapters, community members, and industry partners, as well as thought leaders throughout the IDSA network. This will allow me to better understand all the great things that are happening throughout the district and where the needs are to help bring creativity and design to the forefront.

I am the first to admit I have many lofty goals. Will we be able to reach them all? I would say no, but if you are able to reach all of your goals, then your goals are not high enough.