Tom Gattis’s world is a little hectic at the moment. In less than a month he needs to sell a home, find a home, find a school for his two teenage daughters, pack, and move to Columbus, OH from Savannah, GA to start his new job as CCAD’s chair of Industrial Design on July 1. Despite all of that, he describes this time as “not too crazy,” and is looking forward to getting to Columbus and hitting the ground running.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “It’s a huge opportunity to have an impact on, and help grow, a burgeoning program.”
Gattis is coming to CCAD after 13 years with Savannah College of Art & Design. During his tenure as chair of their Industrial Design program, he was responsible for ushering in sponsored project programming that changed the face of design education for students and significantly increased enrollment and revenue for the program.
“I’m hoping I can bring my success at SCAD to CCAD,” Gattis shared. He explained how a project-based learning model, where students work on real-world projects for leading design companies, can help address the gap between classic design education (based on models developed in the 1950s and ’60s) and the continuing changes occurring in today’s design industry.
“I started doing design projects with companies in the classroom about 10 years ago and it changed how I looked at design education,” said Gattis.
“When we bring in businesses and captains of industry and get the students engaged with the real-world design process and application—the program becomes an apprentice model where they are learning from the masters.
“The project-based model helps students learn what to expect in a real-world design environment, while allowing them the safety of an educational environment. They can still take risks, but they see the real-world applications and implications. Plus the student has the excitement of knowing there is a chance that his or her project could make into a store.”
While at SCAD Gattis served many roles, including chair of furniture design, chair of Industrial Design, and associate vice president for academics for SCAD’s Hong Kong campus.
When asked to describe his favorite aspect of teaching, he said: “There’s a moment that happens with a student, which is difficult to describe, when you see the switch happen. They go from student to professional. It’s a great feeling to watch that happen and know you have helped them get there.”
Like many CCAD faculty, Gattis practices what he teaches. In his spare time, he is a master wood turner and builds wooden boats, including his own mahogany 15-footer called Daddy’s Girl, which will also be making the journey to Columbus from Georgia.
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