Texas State students work with Finnish students for semester-long Design X Culture project

Student Experience

Julie Cooper | June 6, 2022

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Texas State's "Design X Cultures" students that participated in the Global Innovation Exchange program

This spring, 21 Texas State students took on an elective course called Design X Cultures (design across cultures) and got to work collaborating on projects with students from Oulu University of Applied Sciences in Finland, researching global design values and discussing each other’s cultures.

All this without leaving Texas.

This Global Innovation Exchange was an opportunity for students from the U.S. and Finland to exchange ideas about design and promote entrepreneurship, all in collaboration with 3 Day Startup (3DS) a nonprofit from Austin that creates opportunity and builds community through entrepreneurship education that is dynamic and inclusive.

The class was led by Claudia Roeschmann, professor in the School of Art and Design and associate director for design innovation in the Materials Applications Research Center. The 21 students in Finland were under the direction of instructor Karoliina Niemela.

In 2021 Roeschmann learned that the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki, Finland, was putting out a call for proposals to connect Finnish and American students to foster international collaboration and to teach Finnish students about art and design in the U.S. She applied for a $20,000 grant that would enable 3DS to build an online portal for both universities to utilize throughout the semester and provide a facilitator for the hands-on workshop as a kickoff for the course.

German-born Roeschmann had long participated in Texas State’s Study Abroad program  — until the COVID-19 pandemic put the brakes on college student summer travel.

“The course is cross-disciplinary with half of the students coming out of the Honors College and half from the communication design program in the School of Art and Design,” Roeschmann said. “In the Honors College it actually feeds into what they call the CCE credit which stands for cross-collaboration experience credit, which is part of their curriculum. We refer to it as a study abroad, even though it's a virtual study abroad.”

In February, students from both countries met during a weekend. Texas State students used Capital Factory, an Austin nonprofit that brings together the Texas startup community, to meet virtually and brainstorm with each other and the Finnish students.

Their project — to design the future.

Students worked in teams using art, design, and entrepreneurship principles to create a product or service addressing one of three global megatrends: climate change and resource scarcity, demographics and social change, or digital transformation and technological breakthroughs. Students learned about each other via a Lookbook and communicated using the online workspace Slack. They were required to post work updates on individually created blog sites after the weekend, and teams would meet up in separate Zoom rooms.

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“We had that weekend together and then afterward we had these student teams meet during my class time, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. We invited the Finnish students to come so that we could actually have feedback sessions,” Roeschmann said. She explained that the eight-hour time difference made working together a challenge. For the Finnish students, it meant coming back to their campus at night.

Alexis Contreras, a senior communication design major, capped off her final semester before graduation with Design X Cultures. “I had Claudia Roeschmann for a class in a previous semester and found her teaching style and perspective refreshing. A very straightforward approach that also gives students room to be self-sufficient and independent,” she said. “The added benefit was to design alongside a corresponding Finnish University, which would give me more insight on European teaching styles and design principles.” Contreras’ team looked at the problems of population and housing.

“For the Finnish students to actually see some of the research that the U.S. students were doing when it came to these mega trends was just like, ‘oh wow — wait you don't have that?’ There were a lot of cultural differences that were red flags. For example community gardens and those types of things. It was amazing to see these interactions between the students,” Roeschmann said.

Kelsey Burdick is a junior majoring in electronic media and minoring in Honors Studies. She is also the studio lead of Design for America with an avid interest in design, problem-solving, and entrepreneurship. “I was also intrigued by the collaboration with the Finnish students and the chance to experience cross-cultural design,” she said. “Even though the class is over, I still have social media connections with the Finnish students and they're very friendly. That type of long-distance connection is a rare opportunity and I'm grateful that Texas State offered this type of program, especially with the pandemic preventing study abroad opportunities.”

Senior communication design major Naim Lujano Carbajal said he chose to take the class “because I knew I was going to get much more insight and experience in applying broader concepts related to research methods which I truly love doing. And also Claudia is an amazing professor who encourages students to think broader, so I knew I was going to enjoy the course.” He especially liked learning how funny the Finnish students were. “I wouldn’t change anything about it, it was an amazing experience to digitally collaborate with students from Finland which involved tackling some of the world’s most prevalent problems, “ he said.

For the Finnish participants, all graphic design students, this class was their final capstone project and continues because Finland’s academic calendar differs from U.S. colleges. The Texas State students finished April 26 with a final project presentation held at STAR Park. Roeschmann currently plans to repeat the elective course next spring semester with Niemela.

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View two of the final Design X Cultures projects below

For more information, contact University Communications:

Jayme Blaschke, 512-245-2555

Sandy Pantlik, 512-245-2922