ESJ prepares graduates to understand and address “wicked problems” or grand, protracted contemporary challenges to more sustainable futures, social equity, and ecological systems and the built environment, using creative tools and collaborative approaches informed by a liberal education rich in methodological diversity. Students choose from a broad menu of academic and studio courses to customize their program of study, one that is interdisciplinary, focused on creative problem solving, and committed to responsible engagement. The focused yet flexible liberal arts education and rigorous training in design or fine arts prepares students for a wide range of creative professional careers that support purposeful and successful lives.
Environmental and social justice are inextricably intertwined. Therefore, ESJ students study environmental problems and inequality together as they manifest locally and in a global context, developing sensitivity to matters of history and scale that prepare them to become adept collaborators wherever their work takes them. Later in their studies, the students, through their choice of courses and topics of concern, focus on an environmental and/or social problem for a research-based capstone project. With its tremendous range that includes local engagement, global awareness, and frameworks for understanding inequality, nature, and culture, the ESJ major pathway aspires to fulfill MICA’s commitment to art and design education with an understanding of diversity, equity, inclusion, and globalization.
In addition to directing MICA's new ESJ major, Dr. Mel Michelle Lewis (they > she) is chair of Humanistic Studies and Associate Professor of Black/Ethnic Studies & Gender/Sexuality Studies at Maryland Institute College of Art. Their research and teaching cultivates Black queer critical race social justice pedagogies for liberatory art and design education and creative practice.
This new semester-long fall program is focused on integrating studio research with contemporary topics that revolve around environmental and social justice issues of the moment. Entering students of all interests and backgrounds can apply to be a part of the First Year Fellows programs.