From London to Shanghai, our amazing alumna Lisa Scharoun '00 will follow her passion anywhere life takes her. New York-native Professor Scharoun '00 currently teaches and heads the School of Design in Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia, making huge marks in the industry wherever she sets foot. This multi-award winning educator, researcher, and talented professional graduated from FSC only to go on to receive her MA in Graphic Design from Central Saint Martins University of Arts London. Dr. Scharoun then received a PhD in Visual Communication from Griffith University and in the process traveled, taught, and received multiple Vice Chancellor's Excellence awards for her efforts.
Since then, Dr. Scharoun has won many national and international awards and was recognized among the top ten finalists in the Bill and Melinda Gates "Records for Life" competition, receiving the prestigious "Ease of Adding Information" award after creating a design solution to assist mothers in developing countries to vaccinate their children.
We spoke with Dr. Scharoun to learn more about her success after FSC.
Tell us about what inspired your career path?
I have always loved art and music and knew I wanted to pursue a career in the arts from an early age. As a high school student, I created a design for my hometown’s town seal. This design was selected to represent the Town of Kinderhook and continues to be used as the official Town Seal to this day. I suppose this validation of my work directed me to a more commercial path in the arts; however, at that point I had limited understanding of the design professions. Therefore, when I started at FSC I was an undeclared major and in my first year, I took a range of arts & music subjects. I was encouraged to join the Graphic Design course in my second year (which had been recently established) and soon found that it was a profession that would enable me to realise my creative ambitions.
What was majoring in Graphic Design like here?
I was encouraged to join the Graphic Design course by my academic supervisor at the time, Dr. Jim Rogers. The course was new and the numbers in core subjects were small, so I had fantastic support from tutors and peers. We formed a great little community that worked together and helped each other along the way. I have good memories of many late nights working on our projects in the GD studio with our crew. In my final year, I was offered an internship with the American Heart Association, creating an awareness campaign on how to use defibrillators. This experience was influential in establishing my ambition to specialize in Social Design.
What professors at FSC did you have the best experience with and why?
Bill Otremsky was a great teacher in the Arts faculty and was always going the extra mile to engage with students to provide support.
Did you do any research during college, present at conferences, or publish?
I was part of the Advertising Club and led the club in a project designing a campaign for the NY Times which required a significant element of research. Our solution was selected to represent Division 4 (Florida and the Caribbean) at the American Advertising Federation Conference in Vegas in 2000 (the first team from Florida Southern to be awarded this).
Why did you choose FSC, and how do you feel it contributed to your success today?
I wanted to move far away from my hometown so that I could experience another part of the country. Florida was an ideal destination as my family has a holiday home in Southwest Florida and my older brothers relocated to Florida after school to work in the building industry. Moving halfway across the country was a bit less daunting with family nearby. I chose FSC because I liked the community feel, smaller class sizes and the Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture. FSC also awarded me a merit scholarship on application which helped me to make my final decision.
Being a student here helped me to define a clearer career path for myself and provided me with real world opportunities to engage with industry. Most importantly, FSC provided me with lifelong friends who have supported me through the great highs and lows of life.
Talk to us about your profession today. What does your day look like?
I have the fabulous opportunity to shape the designers of the future. Through this role I am also able to directly influence the dialogue on Social and Cross-Cultural Design in my nation and globally.
My day varies from day to day, but mainly I am engaged in managing academics, meeting with our faculty executive and representing my University at key industry events (both local and international). My role also involves teaching, writing research papers and books, presenting at conferences, writing grant applications as well as preparing industry reports, preparing and reviewing design solutions for competitions and industry. Today I am meeting with academics, leading designers and architects in Brisbane to work on a bid to establish Brisbane as a UNESCO City of Design.
What are your plans going forward?
Through the strategic plan I have created for our School, I aim to support and lead our academics, students, industry and community partners to drive initiatives that will establish the QUT School of Design as a world leader in Responsible Design.
What have you learned in the field that may have been different from what you learned while studying?
After completing my degree at FSC, I have worked and lived in many cities and countries. From London, Rouen, Shanghai, Melbourne, Canberra to Brisbane; I travelled the world working first as a graphic and interior designer and then as a design academic. Ultimately, I believe that design is about understanding people and interpreting their behaviours. Learning how to adapt to many new cultural perspectives and practices has shaped my approach to my profession and my life in general. This type of experiential learning is very difficult to achieve in the classroom.
Have you done any volunteer work?
In China, I volunteered with a group called Hands on Shanghai where we would visit care homes and orphanages to provide social programs for residents. I also volunteered with Lifeline Shanghai, a phone service where people with personal, social or professional issues could ring for advice. In Australia, I have volunteered with the Sudanese Australia Integrated Learning program in Melbourne for Sudanese refugees; providing care for young toddlers and babies so that their parents could attend English classes. During a six-month sabbatical in Singapore in 2017, I volunteered at the Foo Hai Elderly Day Care Centre creating new social programs for residents. I have also incorporated a number of social initiatives into my teaching practice - linking student with projects for the Australian Paralympic Committee, local refugee support groups, children’s health and nutrition groups to combat childhood obesity and aged care support facilities.
What advice would you give current students or young alumni?
Go as far outside of your comfort zone as you can; travel and live in a country vastly different to your own. The only way to truly understand yourself and your culture is to view it from an external perspective. Continually question what you are doing and how it impacts the world. Align your values to your practice.