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Bringing a Community Out of the Shadows: DSI Alum Wei Zheng at Work

The first day of a four day workshop here at Hunan Normal University was filled with sixty excited architecture and interior design students, an impressive team of faculty, and a challenge that represents not only an opportunity for Changsha to save the hidden heart of its city and its oldest neighborhood, but also a potential model for other cities in China and the world. That’s what I thought I would be compelled to write about. And I will.

But first, I need to write about Wei Zheng, our 2014 DSI Alum: in particular, what an extraordinary woman and social designer she has become. Wei lives here in Changsha, and now works as a lead UX designer for Mango TV. She has also been instrumental in organizing this workshop, bringing all of us together, designing the process, translating complex concepts, mentoring individual students on the work at hand and their thesis projects on the side, designing the poster for the event, and giving her own lectures on the power of design at another local event, COIN. Wei and I laughed about how shy she was for the entire first year in the program, that she was always the quiet student. Now I know she was just watching and learning and waiting for her moment to emerge as a full grown butterfly. I was told by someone in the audience for Wei’s lecture that she gave a “brilliant” talk.

Wei is a natural educator and mentor, stepping into the role of co-leading the workshop effortlessly, and tirelessly contributing to a very long day of ideas and questions and more ideas.

Of all the ways to measure the value of what our faculty have dedicated themselves to over these first four years at DSI, seeing Wei Zheng and what a beautiful, creative and inspirational leader she has become is, for me, the best one yet.

photos: (1) Heyu Lee, (2) poster – Wei Zheng, (3-4) Cheryl Heller
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