We are pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Mai Thi Nguyen as the next Faculty Director of the Design Lab, effective March 24, 2021.
Dr. Nguyen holds a Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of California, Irvine and an M.A. in Sociology from Pennsylvania State University. She is an associate professor in the department of City & Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she directs the Center for Community Capital, a non-partisan, multi-disciplinary research center housed within the College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Nguyen additionally directs the Academic Leadership Program at UNC-CH, providing leadership training and mentorship to cohorts of academic leaders. She also serves as Director of the Equity and Resilience Lab, whose members are dedicated to the inquiry of equity and resilience in urban planning and public policy.
Dr. Nguyen’s research focuses broadly on social and spatial inequality, but more specifically on evaluating programs and public policies to create resilient, equitable, and inclusive communities to improve the lives of vulnerable and underserved populations, and create a better future for the next generation. Furthermore, her research has been guided by the goal of making a societal impact and translating research to a broad audience. To advance this goal, she disseminates her research to a wide variety of academic and non-academic outlets, including new forms of social media, as well as the performing arts.
A strong advocate for and champion of diversity, equity and inclusion, Dr. Nguyen has served since 2012 as a Diversity Liaison for the UNC-CH College of Arts and Sciences, actively mentoring underrepresented minorities and women to promote greater diversity in the planning academy. She also directs an intensive, 10-week national summer program, the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (MURAP) that trains and mentors minority undergraduate students in the social sciences, humanities, and fine arts for a career in the academy. She has won several research awards for her commitment to equity, including the Plan for All Award for her work on anti-immigration policies. Dr. Nguyen has also been recognized with numerous awards for teaching excellence at the undergraduate and doctoral levels.
Dr. Nguyen is well positioned to lead the Design Lab, now in its 7th year, into its next chapter. As Faculty Director, Dr. Nguyen will convene and lead a diverse multi-disciplinary community to develop systems that can be trusted, used and appreciated, and to ultimately weave design into the fabric of academic, research and community life at UC San Diego. She will oversee and help grow a vigorous portfolio of high-quality, impactful and sustainable research and educational programming to engage communities beyond our university. Throughout her tenure at UNC-CH, she has engaged in and led cross-disciplinary, cross sector, and inter-institutional collaborations with the mindset that solving complex societal problems requires a multi-disciplinary, systems, and multi-scalar approach.
The Design Lab at UC San Diego was established to become a major international center for human-centered design, with the focus on people in the making of complex built, social and environmental systems that cut across the arts, humanities, engineering, and the sciences (behavioral, biological, computation, physical, and social). Design faculty from across campus come together to work on complex issues in knowledge, learning, health, mobility, communication, and community planning, among others, with the aspiration to forms of design that acknowledge and address critical issues in ethics, inequality, and social justice.
We sincerely thank the members of the search committee, led by Professor Marta Kutas, for their thoughtful contributions and insights. We also appreciate the wide-ranging input from members of the campus community who participated in the search process.
Please join us in warmly welcoming Dr. Mai Thi Nguyen to UC San Diego, and in extending our sincere appreciation to outgoing Director Don Norman for his visionary leadership as founding Director of the Design Lab.
Elizabeth H. Simmons
Executive Vice Chancellor
Senior Associate Vice Chancellor – Academic Affairs