Prominent designer Cheryl Heller to lead new masters program at ASU

The new degree will be a Masters of Science in Innovation and Venture Development

ASU will be welcoming a prominent designer to spearhead a new degree that will integrate design theory with disciplines such as engineering and business beginning next semester. 

Cheryl Heller, the new director of design integration at ASU, will be heading the Master of Science in Innovation and Venture Development, a program housed in The Design School. The degree will aim to prepare design students to collaborate with other disciplines.

Her role in design integration will be a joint position between the W. P. Carey School of Business, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

The Master of Science in Innovation and Venture Development will combine learning from the three schools in order to teach students how to work in a multidisciplinary environment. 

Kay Faris, senior associate dean for W.P. Carey, said the position is well-suited for Heller because of her wealth of experience and ability to work well with people from other disciplines.

“I think without question, her background is extensive," Faris said. "At the time, we had the idea that she would be extremely collaborative and I think that’s exactly what we’re seeing.” 

Heller's experience includes founding a Masters of Fine Arts program in social design at the School of Visual Arts in New York, winning the American Institute of Graphic Arts medal and working with corporate clients such as Ford and Reebok. 

Jason Schupbach, director at The Design School, said the colleges are confident that in her new role, Heller will be able to bridge design integration education across the multiple schools.

“it's just very clear that she knew how to do that job and then she would be very comfortable living in all of those worlds, because she's done it already,” Schupbach said. 

Heller said she was offered the job last December and began working part-time at ASU in January. 

“I’m really excited to be working at ASU,” she said. “I have to say I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people in this part-time situation and it is truly a remarkable place filled with people who are energized about trying new things and are open and collaborative. I’m really, really excited.”

Heller said she thinks her previous experience will be helpful in the new role she’s taking on. 

“I have always been an integrator and I like crossing boundaries and eliminating boundaries,” she said. 

She said collaboration can be the answer to solving some of the most pressing problems of our time.

“Climate change, poverty, opioids, social justice and health issues around the world require collaboration to address them,” she said. 

Heller will also be leading the InnovationSpace, a program between the three schools, in which students from various majors work collaboratively on real-world problems. 

Faris said that the InnovationSpace is a great opportunity for students, but enrollment is currently limited. 

“One of the things (Heller) is doing is scaling that to provide more access to more students to be involved in what I think is really terrific,” Faris said.

Heller said that her plan to expand the accessibility of the InnovationSpace stems from her interest in getting more people exposed to design integration education.

"I have a goal to make this curriculum available to as many people as possible who wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to learn it," she said.

Schupbach said the University is lucky to have Heller and all the colleges involved are extremely excited about the new position, because students have to be well-versed in interdisciplinary situations in order to succeed.

“We have been going around and listening to a lot of CEOs and a lot of people who will eventually hire our students and they all say that students need to have more trans-disciplinary knowledge,” he said. “It's not good enough to be just a business person, just an engineer, just a designer anymore. You have to understand how to work on teams.” 

Reach the reporter at and follow @itsbrennaaaa on Twitter. 

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