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Employers Say Design Educator Is at the Head of the Class

Dale Murray, associate professor of design, is one of four UC design faculty named by the nation’s employers to a prestigious list of America’s most admired design teachers.

Date: 4/4/2006
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Andrew Higley
UC ingot
Dale, at left, reviews an ice-cream scoop design with students in studio.

Dale Murray of the University of Cincinnati’s top-ranked industrial design program represents nearly 25 years of professional experience. Perhaps that’s why the nation’s architecture, engineering and design employers named him to a short list of America’s Most Admired Industrial Design Educators in 2006.

That list appeared in the December 2005 issue of DesignIntelligence magazine, a design industry publication of the Design Futures Council. Every December, the magazine publishes the results of its annual survey of design and engineering employers regarding the nation’s best design programs. UC again made that list this past year with the nation’s:

  • Number one undergraduate interior design program (for the 7th straight year)
  • Number one architecture program among the magazine’s Top Ten Most Innovative Architecture Programs
  • Number two architecture program in terms of overall quality
  • Number two industrial design program

In the rankings, UC beat out such East Coast rivals as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia and Cornell on the strengths of its Top Ten co-op program (ranked among the nation’s elite by U.S. News & World Report), the challenging curriculum in UC's College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, and the excellence of its design faculty.

For the first time this year, the 2006 blue-ribbon rankings also included a listing of the nation’s best design faculty. UC had four faculty members on that list – Dale Murray, Tony Kawanari, Gerry Michaud and Craig Vogel. Only one other school in the nation (Art Center in California) had as many.

The fact that Dale made that list is especially impressive because he only began teaching  ten years ago, coming into the profession when he decided to teach as a change from a career where he’d specialized in exhibit designs. For instance, Dale completed exhibit designs for such venues as Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry; the Lincoln Park Zoo (Chicago) and the Brookfield Zoo (Chicago).

“What had always attracted me to exhibit design was the people I met. For instance, when working on the Nobel Hall of Science in Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry, I met Nobel-winning scientists and translated their work via a design that communicated to the museum audiences,” explains Dale.

Dale reviews another ice-cream scoop design.

He laughs that teaching is not much different from working with business clients and colleagues: “When the students are new to the design process as sophomores, they hang on your every word. Later, as seniors, they’ve been through this amazing process of growth. Then, they don’t listen to a word you say.”

Perhaps, in part, because design seniors at UC graduate with about 18 months of paid, professional experience thanks to the university’s vaunted cooperative education program. That program, combined with the curriculum, usually means UC’s industrial design students have their pick of jobs at graduation. “In fact,” said Dale, “by the time they’re seniors, they’re really my colleagues more than my students.”

He states that what he believes both students and employers appreciate about his teaching is his passion for design. “Whether with colleagues or students, I don’t always agree on solutions to problems, but they always know that I really care about them and their work. More than anything, for my students, I hope I’m modeling a way of life as a designer, as an effective agent for social change.”

Second to that, Dale – as a teacher – wants to make sure of one thing every day: “That we have a lot of fun in the classroom.”

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