Commencement 2017: A Globetrotting Speaker, A New Venue, and the Spirit of the World’s Fair
Maurice Dusault’s entire life has been a study abroad trip.
Born in the Netherlands and ethnically Dutch, Dusault, 22, has lived in his native country for only four years — and not even four consecutive years.
The son of a traveling engineer, he’s lived all over the world, from Italy, the United States, and France to Switzerland, South Korea, and China. He’s learned or gained working knowledge of multiple languages, and immersed himself in myriad cultures.
It is this globetrotting experience — one that extended to Dusault’s time at The New School, the country’s most international university — that shaped him into the cross-cultural, multidisciplinary person and designer that he is today.
“It’s predominantly why I chose to study at The New School,” Dusault says of the university’s internationally diverse community. “It’s an academic community that’s open to diversity and truly values it. There are people representing so many nationalities who bring their own unique perspectives to solving pressing issues.”
Dusault, BBA Strategic Design and Management ’17, will share his experience and insights with The New School’s graduating class at the university’s 81st commencement exercises on Friday, May 19. He will trade speaking duties with honorary degree recipients Anna Sui, fashion designer; Ai-jen Poo, an activist on behalf of domestic workers and older adults; and Barbara Hillary, an explorer and cancer survivor, who, at the age of 75, was the first African-American woman to reach the North Pole.
Following the graduation ceremony, The New School will host a celebratory festival featuring a performance of the band Moon Hooch, a Brooklyn-based brass-and-drum trio whose members attended The New School, and Arta Jekabsone, Jazz ’17, the winner of the prestigious Shure Montreux Jazz Voice Competition. The festival also features an interactive arts activation, a pop-up shop of New School–themed swag from The New Store, T-shirt and gown printing by the Making Center, local food trucks, a Gif photo booth, and games, crafts, and facepainting.
For the first time this year, The New School’s Commencement will be held at Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Queens. The venue is situated in Corona Park, a stone’s throw from the site of the 1964 World’s Fair and the famed Unisphere sculpture. The New School’s diverse student body, and its vibrant and eclectic festival, will evoke the spirit and history of this storied event and its theme, “Peace Through Understanding.”
Dusault, through his experiences, has embodied the World’s Fair theme. Right before moving to New York, he lived in China, spending two years in Nanjing and five years in Shanghai. Though he started in the siloed environment of the city’s British International School, Dusault eventually transferred to Shanghai JiaoTong University to “learn Chinese language and literature and experience Chinese culture.”
“In the final year at the British International School, I wanted to get out,” he said. “I got a great understanding of Chinese culture by learning the language, including the range of emotions, how to structure sentences, and the way language represents and perceives time.”
Aside from studying Chinese language and literature, Dusault has lived and/or studied in Italy, Switzerland, South Korea, the United States, and France.
“What I’ve gotten from all my experiences is cultural understanding,” he said. “Getting to know, work with, and collaborate with people of different backgrounds, beliefs, and ways of thinking from all over the world has been an incredibly enriching experience.”
At The New School, Dusault made the most of the university’s vibrant multicultural milieu. He worked as a research assistant in the School of Design Strategies at Parsons School of Design, assisting faculty in researching contemporary design themes and social issues, and studied abroad in France at Parsons Paris. He also participated in the Design and Marketing of Luxury Goods master class, working on a client brief for Tiffany & Co. alongside his peers at Parsons and Columbia Business School students. His capstone project focuses on the immediate risks rising sea levels pose to New Yorkers and the role art and design interventions can play in addressing this urgent issue.
Dusault wants to continue working as design strategist after graduation, using “design as a tool to bring about positive change.” He said this approach is especially relevant now in our current political climate, in which the very ideas he’s built his life upon — international cooperation and cross-cultural appreciation — are being threatened. Even as much of the world continues to close itself off, Dusault will continue to reach out to people of different countries and cultures and work collaboratively to tackle some of the most pressing issues of our time.
“As we embark on our careers, it’s crucial that we remind ourselves how important it is to be open-minded to different perspectives and encourage diversity,” he said. “These are frightening times, but they also pose a big opportunity. Whether you study music or drama, design or architecture, writing or international politics, New School students should seek ways to apply your creativity in a way that brings about good in your own community and the wider global community.”