Brown and RISD launch joint master of arts in design engineering

The RISD Architecture + Design division and Brown’s School of Engineering are accepting applications for a master’s program focused on intersection of design and engineering.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design] — Building on a strong record of cross-disciplinary collaboration between the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and Brown University, the two institutions have launched a new joint master of arts in design engineering.

The program, administered by the RISD Architecture + Design division and Brown’s School of Engineering, will emphasize experiential learning as it prepares students to create objects that embody collaborative expression and improve people’s lives.

In the intensive, 11-month residential program, degree candidates will exercise their creativity, analytical reasoning and research skills to produce work that responds to small- and large-scale challenges, program leaders say. Working primarily in studios and shops, students will explore ways of addressing key challenges in public health, education, climate change and more. The team-based learning approach will help students form strong connections within a cohort of designers and engineers.

“In bringing together industrial design and engineering, we are building a team whose members have diverse perspectives and come from different disciplinary frameworks,” says RISD Industrial Design department head and program co-director Khipra Nichols. “Students will be prepared for team-based work environments that facilitate a holistic approach to problem-solving.”

Brown and RISD launch joint master of arts in design engineering
Chris Bull, senior lecturer in engineering and program co-director, works with students in the Brown Design Workshop. Credit: Nick Dentamaro

Degree candidates work with a wide range of experts from diverse fields including museum education, health care and aviation, while making use of state-of-the-art facilities in Brown’s Engineering Research Center, the Brown Design Workshop and RISD’s Co-Works interdisciplinary research lab. Instruction will focus on iterative making and testing, helping students hone skills necessary to work in modern team-based professional settings.

“Whether it’s creating an attractive and energy-efficient home, or developing a precisely tuned medical device that is easy for providers to use, there’s a rich landscape of work that can benefit from the integrated perspectives of design and engineering,” said Christopher Bull, a senior lecturer in Brown’s School of Engineering and program co-director. “Powerful things happen when those two perspectives are brought together, while immersing students in a hands-on, project-based environment.”

Applications are currently being accepted, and more information about the program is available at The first cohort is expected to begin the program in the summer of 2021.

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