New Design School at UT Austin Hires Verena Paepcke-Hjeltness, IDSA

Sep 19 2019 - 3:31pm


Verena Paepcke-Hjeltness, IDSA has joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin as Associate Professor of Practice in Design. Her role in the new School of Design and Creative Technologies, part of UT Austin's College of Fine Arts, carves out a space of industrial design in a city that has increasingly become known as "Silicon Hills." An IDSA student chapter at the school, which would be UT Austin's first and IDSA's second student chapter in Texas, also is in the works. 

ID is expected to flourish at the school, due in large part to a $1 million gift from the Reese Foundation. According to a press release issued today by the university, UT alumnus Mike Reese has pledged to create the Reese Foundation Excellence Fund for Product Innovation Endowment to benefit the School of Design and Creative Technologies. This will allow the design department to partner more closely with the Cockrell School of Engineering to develop programs and classes around industrial and product design.

“The School of Design and Creative Technologies is so honored to be the recipient of this generous gift and the endowment it creates,” said Doreen Lorenzo, Assistant Dean for the School of Design and Creative Technologies. “Growing our curriculum to include product innovation and industrial design allows us to maintain our competitive stature while growing the mission of our department. It’s an absolute privilege to create this academic opportunity for our students with Mike Reese.”

The press release also notes that "in a market with few other industrial design programs in the region, the University of Texas is uniquely positioned to leverage its existing strengths and become a leading program in industrial design and product innovation."

In an email to IDSA, Paepcke-Hjeltness wrote that she is in the process of expanding the design program to integrate an industrial design focus. She's looking forward to it, she writes, because the creative-packed Austin area "has so much potential for students to find internships and jobs, as well as to collaborate."

"It is a very exciting time to join the School of Design and Creative Technologies at UT Austin," she continues. "This group consists of such diverse people, passionate designers/design educators with so many incredible experiences and expertise, that it is just very inspiring to be here.

As far as IDSA is concerned, the students in the first-ever Introduction to Industrial Design course I am teaching this semester are eager to start a student chapter here. We just explored the official requirements with the IDSA headquarters, got a green light and will begin to recruit the inaugural group of students to create a strategy for how we want to approach IDSA at UT Austin. (Industrial) Design is in the Austin air!"

Verena Paepcke-Hjeltness has worked in Germany and the United States as an industrial designer with a focus on aviation and transportation design. This year, she received the IDSA Education Award for her inspirational teaching, and has served as a juror for IDSA’s International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA). 

As an assistant professor of industrial design at Iowa State University, Paepcke-Hjeltness led a Design Thinking and Doing Research Lab and helped to pioneer sketchnoting as a methodology there. Additionally, she served as a strategic design consultant to the Center for Functional Fabrics at Drexel University, where she previously held appointments as assistant professor and associate program director. She also taught for many years at the Savannah College of Art and Design. 

UT Austin's School of Design and Creative Technologies is expected to become the largest academic unit in the College of Fine Arts. Launched in 2017, the school aims to prime students for creative professions across a wide range of industries. Their studies include designing for health, artificial intelligence, creative technologies in theater and music, entrepreneurial ventures and cross-disciplinary design thinking methodologies.

Learn more by visiting the school's website and reading its digital publication: the Journal of Design and Creative Technologies.