We are delighted to announce our Visiting Lecture Series lineup for the Fall 2018 season. Read more below about Thomas Wendt, Fred Swaniker, Alexa Courtney, Sunny Bates, and Debbie Millman below!

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Thomas Wendt

Thomas Wendt is an independent design researcher, facilitator, and author based in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. He splits his time between client engagements and independent scholarship.

His client work focuses on early stage qualitative design research, co-design, and service design, along with building sustainable design capabilities through workshops, training programs, and consulting. Thomas has worked with clients ranging from large companies to nonprofits and activist groups.

Thomas’s first book, Design for Dasein, deals with the relationship between experience design and practical philosophy. It explores the emerging practice of designing experiences through the lens of phenomenology, a philosophical practice concerned with how humans experience the world. His second book, Persistent Fools: Cunning Intelligence and the Politics of Design, explores the role of cunning intelligence and deception to make more socially, culturally, and ecologically sustainable design decisions, as well as a means of resisting oppressive design.


Fred Swaniker

Fred is deeply passionate about Africa and believes that the missing ingredient on the continent is good leadership. In line with this, he has co-founded three organizations that aim to catalyze a new generation of ethical, entrepreneurial African leaders: African Leadership Academy, African Leadership Network, and African Leadership University. Collectively, these institutions aim to groom 3 million leaders for Africa over a 50-year period. A passionate entrepreneur, Fred also served as Founder and CEO of Terra Education, a global education company that today provides leadership training to about 4,000 people annually at 46 sites in 20 countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Prior to his work in education, Swaniker co-founded Synexa Life Sciences, a biotechnology company with operations in Cape Town, Berlin, London, and Dublin. Prior to launching his entrepreneurial pursuits, Swaniker worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company in South Africa. Swaniker has been recognized as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and was listed by Forbes Magazine among the top ten young ‘power men’ in Africa. Fred has an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, where he was named an Arjay Miller Scholar, a distinction awarded to the top 10% of each graduating class. He holds a BA in Economics with a minor in Mathematical Statistics from Macalester College (magna cum laude). He was born in Ghana but has lived and worked in about 10 different African countries.


Alexa Courtney

Alexa Courtney has over 17 years of experience working in the US and globally in South Asia, Africa, and Europe; co-designing strategies with organizations to better adapt and create impact and leading research, assessment, training, and evaluation teams. She pioneered the application of design thinking, innovation, and systems complexity studies to human security challenges. Since founding Frontier, she has worked with executive leaders at large non-profits (United Way, The Omidyar Group, and The Council on Foreign Relations), Federal organizations (United States Institute of Peace, classified National Security sponsors, the Social Innovation Fund, USAID, the Department of State, and U.S. Special Operations Forces), and commercial firms to apply the tools of design and innovation practices to drive organizational change.

Alexa holds a B.A. in Sociology and International Studies from Yale University and an MSc from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies in the Political Economy of Violence, Conflict and Development. She is a former Fulbright Scholar, Aspen Ideas Festival Scholar, and Presidential Management Fellow, and a former Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She was honored by DevEx and Chevron Corporation as one of forty international development leaders under forty in Washington, DC, for acting as a change agent within USAID and driving adoption of innovative approaches to prevent vulnerability and conflict.


Sunny Bates

Sunny Bates is the Founder and CEO of Sunny Bates Associates—an innovation firm that designs transformative engagements with the world’s most inspiring people. Sunny operates wherever executives, thinkers, artists, creators, innovators, entrepreneurs, educators, philanthropists connect and collide around the globe. Her genius is developing networks of extraordinary people and connecting their ideas in surprising ways toward concrete outcomes. 

As an author, serial entrepreneur, mentor and advisor, her client roster has included some of the world’s most prominent organizations, from GE, TED and Credit Suisse to MTV, the National Academy of Sciences, Techstars and Kickstarter, of which she is a founding board member.


Debbie Millman

As the founder and host of Design Matters, one of the world’s first and longest running podcasts, Debbie Millman has interviewed over 400 artists, designers and cultural commentators, including Marina Abramovic, Steven Pinker, Milton Glaser, Malcolm Gladwell, Shepard Fairey, Barbara Kruger, Amanda Palmer, Alain de Botton and many more. In the 13 years since its inception, the show has garnered over a five-million-downloads per year, a Cooper Hewitt National Design Award and iTunes has designated it one of the best overall podcasts.

Debbie is the author of six books, including two collections of interviews that have extended the ethos and editorial vision of Design Matters to the printed page: How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer and Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits. Both books have been published in over 10 languages.

In 2009 Debbie co-founded with Steven Heller the world’s first graduate program in branding at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Now in its eighth year, the program has achieved international acclaim. The inaugural class wrote and designed the Rockport book Brand Bible: The Complete Guide to Building, Designing and Sustaining Brands, in 2013 the students created branding for the Museum of Modern Art’s retail program, Destination: New York, the class of 2015 worked to reposition a Kappa Middle School in Harlem, the class of 2016 rebranded Mariska Hargitay’s Joyful Heart Foundation and the class of 2017 worked with Kholsa Ventures, Performance Space New York and Chobani Incubators.

Debbie’s illustrations have appeared in publications such as The New York Times, New York Magazine, Print Magazine, Design Observer and Fast Company. She is the author of two books of illustrated essays: Look Both Ways and Self-Portrait As Your Traitor; the later of which has been awarded a Gold Mobius, a Print Typography Award, and a medal from the Art Directors Club.