The New School + #SXSW: Faculty, Alumni, and Students Showcase Innovative, Interdisciplinary Projects
Every March, thousands of people, and almost as many brands, descend upon Austin, Texas, for the annual #SXSW Interactive Festival. For the last five years, The New School has been well represented at the film, music, and innovation conference by faculty, alumni, and students, and this year was no different.
Ranging from panel discussions about the future of blockchain, diversity in fashion, and new gender identities in media to film premieres, yoga sessions, and more, the festival highlighted the interdisciplinary work of faculty, students, and alumni. Alumni from throughout the university shared their innovative work spanning the arts, design, social good, and tech and engaged with attendees on a variety of current issues. The New School also hosted a happy hour, where faculty, alumni, and current students made new connections.
Kim Jenkins, MA Fashion Studies ’13, and faculty member in Parsons School of Art and Design History and Theory, kicked things off alongside designers Rebecca Minkoff and Chromat’s Becca McCharen-Tran on the “Feminist Rising: Why Brands Must Take a Stand” panel. During the discussion, Jenkins noted that…”brands need to create a workforce that reflects the diversity of their future consumer base.”
“Unleashing Cities’ Collective Superpower” featured Maya Wiley, SVP for Social Justice and Henry Cohen Professor of Urban Policy and Management at The New School, where she discussed the need for cities to work together in order to spur innovation and growth.
Parsons School of Fashion hosted “Sustainable Menstruation Products for Refugees, by Refugees,” about their recent partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), where they were joined by Nadya Okamoto, founder of Period, the world’s largest youth-run NGO focused on women’s health. Brendan McCarthy, BFA Fashion Design program director, spoke about the results of the collaboration with the UNFPA, which is a new sustainable menstrual undergarment designed with refugees, for refugees.
“It might seem unusual to have a school of fashion in partnership with the United Nations,” he said. “But at Parsons, we are shifting our mindsets in order to challenge our students in different ways, and trying to imagine new outcomes for fashion.”
Mindy Fullilove, professor of Urban Policy and Health, was featured on the “400 Years of Inequality: A People’s Observance” panel, where she spoke about her project to observe the anniversary of the first slaves landing in the U.S., and how she hopes to use the attention to renew and strengthen the struggle for full emancipation, equity, and justice.
Rounding out the faculty presence at #SXSW, Harpreet Sareen, assistant professor of Interaction and Media Design at Parsons, won the #SXSW Interactive Innovation Award winner in the Speculative Design category for his water monitoring device Argus.
“We have been working on this project for close to two years, so being at #SXSW with other people who have had similar experiences has been great,” said Sareen. “Winning this award is incredibly validating, but it also tells me I should keep going.”
Myles Loftin, Photography ’20, also appeared at the festival, where he spoke on “The Future of Gender Identities in Art and Media” panel, while Duyen (Chanel) Luu Hai, MFA Design and Technology ’19, was a #SXSW Interactive Innovation Award Finalist for Thea, a wearable device to assist the visually impaired with navigation.
New School alumni were well represented at the conference as well, premiering films, discussing current events on panels, and winning awards.
Karen Maine, BA Liberal Arts ‘08, premiered her directorial debut, Yes, God, Yes, which was named to The Hollywood Reporter’s “Best-of-SXSW” and won SXSW’s Narrative Feature Competition Special Jury Recognition for Best Ensemble. Brian De Leeuw, MFA Creative Writing ’07, co-wrote the screenplay for Daniel Isn’t Real, which is based on his debut novel, “In This Way I Was Saved.”
Mollie West Duffy, MFA Transdisciplinary Design ’15, Organizational Designer at IDEO, recently published “No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions At Work.” While Duffy wasn’t able to attend her talk, her co-author spoke about their book, and how people can learn to navigate their emotions in a professional setting.
Courtney Snavely, MFA Design and Technology ’17, was the focus of a startup spotlight at the #SXSW Wellness Expo for the company she co-founded, Ovee, a sexual and reproductive health platform empowering women with premium content, curated products, and the supportive community they need to decide what is right for their unique healthcare needs.
Sarah Winshall, MA Media Studies ’13, co-produced the documentary “Leave the Bus Through the Open Window,” which premiered in the “Visions” section of the festival. Siddharta Jatia, MFA Design and Technology ’02, was featured on “The Architects are Invading” panel, where he spoke about how his training as an architect informs his current job as Vice President of Global ECommerce at Under Armour.
Other alumni from the Design and Technology program were also at #SXSW, including Benjamin Chase and Charles Yust, who both graduated in 2008. Chase led an immersive discussion about equitable access to healthcare, while Yust spoke about the AR/VR exhibit he helped create at SFMOMA.
Sarah Flynn, BA Liberal Arts ’03, discussed the new ways that athletes are telling their stories on the “Future of Athletes’ Production Companies” panel, and was also shared her thoughts on Gen Z marketing during the “Influencer Marketing in 2025: The Future of Human Media” panel. Andre Singleton, BA The Arts ’11 and co-founder of The Very Black Project, highlighted the ways he practices self-care as an activist during “The Rebels’ Resistance Conversation.”
Vanessa Kincaid, BBA Strategic Design and Management ’10, highlighted the necessity of using blockchain for emerging AR/VR technologies in her panel “How the Future of VR & AR Will Be Unleashed Through Blockchain.” Tyler Haney, BBA Strategic Design ‘12, and founder of Austin based brand Outdoor Voices, hosted “Yoga and Chill with Moonlit Skincare,” a new skincare label co-founded by Stephanie Kim, BFA Communication Design ’12, who also serves as the brand’s CEO.
Devin Tellatin, MA International Affairs ’16, co-produced the documentary “The Atomic Tree,” a VR experience about a Japanese White Pine bonsai tree that survived the atomic blast at Hiroshima. Stephen Bailey, MA Media Studies ’15, also co-produced the documentary “Strange Negotiations”, about a musician who renounces his evangelical Christian beliefs.
Musicians from The New School headlined the music portion of #SXSW, including Omer Ashano, BFA Jazz and Contemporary Music ’18, who performed with his band OSOG. X Ambassadors, featuring Eugene Lang alumni Adam Levin, BA Interdisciplinary Science ’11 and Sam Harris, BA The Arts ’10, played a show at the #SXSW Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake.
Savannah Enright, BBA Strategic Design and Management ‘07, and Greg Rhem, MA Media Studies ‘10, led mentor sessions for attendees during the conference.
The official #SXSW merchandise was the work of Julie Pinzur, BFA Illustration ’11. As Founder and Creative Director of her own studio Mokuyobi, Pinzur’s vibrant, fun illustrations adorned festival gear such as fanny packs, pins, and t-shirts.