Ohio State Navbar

The Ohio State UniversityOffice of International Affairs

give a donation

Service-Learning Program in Brazil is a Success

The launch of Design Matters in Brazil was a successful pilot course due in part to the support of the Ohio State Brazil Gateway. Design Matters is a service-learning, social impact and social innovation design course that provides students experiential learning in collaborative, team-based projects to address real-world challenges. During spring semester, Ohio State Department of Design students engaged Mackenzie Presbyterian University students to create and design solutions for a non-profit organization, Centro de Inclusão Social Pela Arte, Cultura, Trabalho e Educação (CISARTE).

CISARTE serves the homeless population in São Paulo by fostering social inclusion, providing resources in educational training and job placement and bringing public awareness to the challenges of “street situation” living through culture and art. Located directly below a four-lane road (Viaduto Pedroso) and above an eight-lane highway, the site of CISARTE is a bridge between two neighborhoods literally, but a bridge to a better way of life metaphorically.

As part of the Design Matters in Brazil course, Ohio State students traveled to São Paulo over spring break and worked with Mackenzie teammates to design and build functional and poetically inspired projects for CISARTE to use. In preparation for the on-site work, the Brazil Gateway provided students with a virtual presentation about São Paulo and contextualized the situation of the urban poor. Together, the student teams designed and built a bookshelf and desk wall system, four kitchen tables, eight chairs, a screen wall with bench, a storage unit and a way-finding system for the 1,200 square meters CISARTE space.

As a service-learning course, Design Matters is mutually beneficial to the community through service and to the students in learning. The content of the course and the on-site experiences provide students with place-based learning, expanding their perceptions of the world and increasing their cultural competency.

Generous support for the development of the Design Matters in Brazil course came from the Ratner Family. As a recipient of the Ronald and Deborah Ratner Distinguished Teaching Award, Susan Melsop, associate professor, had the opportunity to plan and conduct on-site course preparation. Over several months, Melsop developed relationships with non-profit organizations and non-governmental organizations, established a university partner for the service-learning coursework and identified a project site. With the success of the pilot course, Design Matters in Brazil will be offered again spring semester 2018, and design students will have the opportunity to apply design thinking and design doing in the field to serve a vulnerable population. This type of coursework provides students real-world experiences and, in the process, extends education beyond the campus by engaging and empowering community members—a mission of a land-grant university. 

By contributing author, Associate Professor Susan Melsop.