Department of Design receives $1 million endowment from UT alum

Claudia Ng

Design students interested in bringing their ideas to the real world will be able to do so thanks to a $1 million endowment to launch a new product design program.

Mike Reese, a UT mechanical engineering alumnus, donated the endowment over the summer to the design program within the College of Fine Arts, said Nada Dorman, assistant director of communications for the School of Design and Creative Technologies. She said the endowment will fund professional development and student scholarships, with an emphasis placed on the launch of a product design program.

“It’s our first endowment, so it’s a big deal for us,” Dorman said. “It’ll expand what the department of design offers students, so we’ll be able to do more than just graphic design.”   

Product design classes offered by the design school will open seats to engineering students, said Scott Evans, a director in the Cockrell School of Engineering. Currently, the University offers design classes in which both design and engineering students can enroll, but the new product design program will increase the
interaction between the two disciplines, Evans said. 

Evans said these classes will offer a richer, more real-world experience for students in both majors because they can collaborate with people from different areas of expertise. 

“This allows the education of engineers to be more closely aligned with the practice,” Evans said. “From the fine arts perspective, you have people who are centered in design, but now they’re dealing with people who understand how to actually implement prototyping.” 


The endowment supports the Department of Design’s mission to expand and will cater specifically to students looking for a product design curriculum said Kate Canales, chair of the Department of Design, in an email. There is a natural crossover between design and engineering, and students will collaborate between disciplines, Canales said.

Design sophomore Austin McGinnis said he thinks the design program does not collaborate with other departments and lacks applicability to human needs, but is instead more aesthetic-based. He said he turned to the physics department last year to make his design products more practical.

McGinnis said he considered adding a psychology or engineering major to supplement his design classes, because he said it would teach him the research and technology elements the design program
currently lacks. 

“That would be my dream — to have a team of designers and engineers who understand each other’s disciplines and can work fluidly together,” McGinnis said.