9/22/2022 Fall ’22 Designer in Residence: Karen Proctor, Improv Lab

Applications Now Open for Fall 2023!

Download the Brochure
Social Design is the application of design methodologies to solutions for complex human problems. Design for Social Innovation at SVA is the first MFA program in Social Design, with an experience-based curriculum of discipline and rigor. Our graduates are pioneering solutions to the major issues of our time, working in the most enlightened and inspiring organizations.

It is a rapidly growing field with exciting career opportunities. Global corporations use it to ignite creativity and commitment within their cultures, foundations embed it into their efforts to end poverty and improve human health. Governments and NGOs use it to innovate new approaches, erase the boundaries of internal silos and step around archaic bureaucratic processes. Designers use it to create lives for themselves filled with purpose and impact.

It is used in neighborhoods to address crime and homelessness, in America’s Rust Belt cities to revitalize them, in India, to jumpstart economies, across Africa, to connect hundreds of thousands of women to prenatal and infant care, in Kenya, to mitigate violence, and in the U.S. to inspire citizens to stop sending almost as much edible food to landfills as they eat. That is just to name a few examples.

Design for Social Innovation is now STEM certified which increases the accessibility of our program with additional scholarship and grant funding.

See what DSI alums are doing here.

Here’s What You Need

Applications are a combination of important records and information, as well as opportunities for you to show us who you are. We look for people who are broadly curious, committed and mature enough to take responsibility for their own future.

Please include three letters of recommendation. OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPTS
In order to be considered official, transcripts must be submitted in a stamped and sealed envelope by the college registrar of the issuing institution. Transcripts must be mailed, delivered, or submitted electronically from a SVA approved e-service. For further information, click here and see the SVA section on Official Transcripts. RESUME / CV
This should include your professional experience as well as any research, awards, or exhibitions. Please include whether you have core design skills and mastery of applications, including all programs in Adobe Creative Suite, After Effects, Apple Final Cut Pro, HTML and Flash. STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
Your Statement of Purpose articulates your aspirations, vision and interests, and why you feel DSI can support your goals. We aim for the Statement of Purpose to be open-ended. You can start with one of these prompts or take a different route: Tell us about a time when you collaborated. Tell us about a time you have been critical and/or responsive. Tell us what activates/animates you. Connect this to what you hope to carry out at DSI.
Format: No more than 500 words. Submit as a pdf via the online application portal. WORK SAMPLES
There are three broad options for work sample submissions. We are interested in examples that you feel connect to themes of social design, social impact, and/or social justice.

Please submit one of the following options:

1. Case Study Describe, analyze, and reflect on initiatives that you have led or on which you have collaborated, or have lived experience. Provide an analysis of complete campaigns with explanation of the issue, response, and outcomes, if available, including thumbnail photos of any visual elements.

Format: 1- 3 Case Studies, Max 5 pages total (including images if necessary), submitted as a PDF or provide a URL link. If submitting a URL link, please make sure the Case Study can be accessed and downloaded. The link can be to a personal website or it can be uploaded to a or available via Google Drive, or Dropbox Link.

2. Visual Work Samples Share examples of your work with a description of how you’ve collaborated or contributed to using design approaches, including processes, learnings, and outcomes (communication/graphic design, 2-D, 3-D, interactive design, data visualization, service design, and/or system design).

Format Note: 10-15 examples as a PDF or provide a URL link. If submitting a URL link, please make sure the Visual Work Samples can be accessed and downloaded. The link can be to a personal website or it can be uploaded to a or available via Google Drive, or Dropbox Link.

3. Project Proposal Write a proposal for a future project (this can be real or imagined) you would like to do. Your proposal should include the following elements: Description/Summary, Background/Context, Motivation, Objectives, Research Methods, Inspiration and Evaluation. Must include proper citations where appropriate.

Format: No more than 3 pages, submitted as a PDF that can be downloaded via Google Drive or Dropbox Link.

It is recommended, though not required, that applicants are familiar with programs such as Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office, film/video editing software, online collaboration and facilitation tools, and mapping software. We find candidates are best prepared for the program if they have at least 2 years of work experience, internship experience, or advocacy experience. Course audits are available for those that are not familiar with core design applications. Lack of design experience should not discourage candidates from applying.

All graduate applicants are required to submit the non-refundable $80 application fee using a credit card.

In addition to the general application requirements, the following must be submitted for all International students:

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL): International applicants whose primary/native language is not English must demonstrate proficiency in written and spoken English. The TOEFL must be completed with a minimum score of 79 (internet-based) or 213 (computer-based). For more information, click here and see the Demonstration of English Proficiency section.

Foreign Transcripts: All foreign post-secondary (university level) transcripts should be converted into U.S. educational equivalencies. Those records that are not converted into U.S. equivalencies must be evaluated by an external evaluation agency. For more information click here, and see the Transcripts / Academic Records from Foreign Institutions section.

Declaration of Finance: Upon acceptance to DSI, all international students are required to submit original documentation of sufficient financial resources to attend SVA. For more information click here, and see the Verification of Finances section. The downloadable forms can be found in the Student Life-International Students section.

Supplemental Materials: Submission of the following items will be considered supplemental: Writing Sample and/or Video Essay. Please email these materials directly to


First, complete the application through the SVA Portal. We will contact qualifying candidates for an interview when your information is complete. If you have any questions please contact us at or SVA Graduate Admissions at

Go to the SVA Online Application for Graduate Admissions.

Create an account if you don’t already have one, choose MFA Design for Social Innovation, and follow instructions from there.

Applicants under consideration will be contacted to schedule an interview and will be conducted via Zoom. We welcome applicants to email any access needs related to interviews to

Applicants who apply by the first deadline January 15th will be notified by March 15th. All other applicants will be notified one month after completed submissions of application.

How We Evaluate

We’re looking for passionate, committed people from all cultural and educational backgrounds who are curious about the world’s diverse systems and environments. We welcome generalists with a breadth and depth of experience, who might find other disciplines too confining, people who like to act as much as they like to think, and who want to engage with the world creatively.

The statement of purpose is important; we want to understand your perspective, your thought process, and the questions you ask yourself as you approach a problem. We’ll be spending a lot of time together, and want to know as much about your hopes and ambitions as we can. Write from your heart as well as your head. Tell us why you want to join DSI, about the life you want to begin here on the day you arrive. And yes, we’re looking for collaborative workers, independent thinkers, good communicators, and visual thinkers.

Including references to work you’re inspired by in your Statement of Purpose and/or Work Samples is encouraged.

If you have any needs or considerations that would make this process more equitable for you, please let us know at!

We don’t expect for you to have solved the world’s challenges already. We’ll get started on that together.

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