New Faculty Member Q&A: Catalina Alzate, Assistant Professor of Practice, Design

Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Catalina Alzate, Assistant Professor of Practice, Design

Catalina Alzate, Assistant Professor of Practice, Design

Tell us about the classes you’ll be teaching this year:

I am delighted to be teaching a variety of courses this semester. I teach a course called Images in Communication for mostly sophomore students. This is a studio-intensive learning experience where we explore personal and social contexts and respond to them with visual and communication design. I also teach Design Theories and Methods for junior and senior students, which is theory- and writing-oriented. I will also teach Service Design for the students in the Master of Arts in Design focused on Health, which is a unique space to forge interdisciplinary learning.

What attracted you to the Department of Design and The University of Texas at Austin?

A combination of many factors. Beginning with the diverse background of faculty, along with the type of work that is being encouraged here, which makes this a one-of-a-kind program for design education. I believe the department is also a space open to experimentation in design in which I see myself supporting with pedagogies that encourage curiosity, discovery and innovation in creative technologies.

Your research is designing products and technologies that advance justice and equity in society. Can you tell us more about how your professional pathway led to this focus?

I think I have been inclined to work towards justice and equity, even before I knew this is what I was doing. Ten years ago I culminated my B.A. in Design with an award-winning interdisciplinary project between Design and the School of Economics that looked at business and livelihood strategies for saving money used by street vendors in my city. This opened up a whole world for me in regards to cooperation and collective action, apart from being the start of a collaboration between the two schools for years to come. Interdisciplinary learning and collectivity thus became central for my work, now materialized as participatory design interventions rooted in feminist politics, and committed to shift the power dynamics in technology design in a variety of contexts, ranging from health care and civic media, to examining design biases in AI and emerging technologies.

What’s something that students and colleagues should know about you?

I am originally from Colombia, lived and worked many years in Bangalore, India, before moving to the U.S. I have collected many small, hand-made artifacts from different cultures and countries, as well as hand-printed fabrics and pottery.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not teaching/researching/working?

Exploring the miracle of life and learning through the eyes of my baby. Painting, making collages and scan-art.

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