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Mayo Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program boosts representation in field of design

Buckeyes give: View the top stories from 2021-22 

Joseph Wisne ’86, and Bridgette Mariea, BA  ’89, believe deeply in the importance of representation across the field of design.

“‘Design’ is often misunderstood to be a narrower discipline than it really is,” Wisne said. “There’s enormous space to accommodate the full spectrum of human perspectives, backgrounds and skills.”

To capitalize on this opportunity, Wisne and Mariea have funded the Mayo Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program in the Department of Design. They hope their passion for representation in the field can inspire other design firms to participate in this initiative.

Wisne is the founder and CEO of Dublin-based Roto, one of North America's largest designers of immersive experiences and exhibits for museums and attractions. Roto’s projects include the National Museum of American History, the Legacy Museum, and the Columbus Center of Science and Industry (COSI). Wisne was named one of the world’s 50 Museum Influencers of 2021 by Bloolop, the leading attractions industry publication.

The program is named after Noel Mayo, a long-time advocate for African American student success within the field of design. Mayo was an Ohio Eminent Scholar who worked at Ohio State for more than 20 years in the 1990s and 2000s, helping recruit Black students to the program. Mayo is a strong role model within the department, according to Wisne and Mariea. The pair say they are honored to have his name attached to this mentorship.

The program provides the opportunity for three first-year students to be mentored by three third- and fourth-year students of diverse backgrounds. Each participant — both mentor and mentee — are awarded a scholarship as part of their participation.

This year’s group of students selected for the Mayo Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program — the first wave in what will be an annual program — found success and strength in their shared bonds.

Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native Americans make up less than 10% of the design industry, according to Data USA, and fewer than one in five new architects identify as a person of color, according to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). Peer-to-peer mentoring has been proven to be an effective method in supporting students of color as they persist in their college experience through to graduation. Pennsylvania’s Muhlenberg College found that four-year graduation rates for participants in peer-to-peer programs were consistently five to six percentage points higher than those of the general student population.

“This mentoring program has a strong structure for students to feel seen in a program and institution that is predominantly white,” said interior design undergraduate student Fabian Perez, a mentor from the 2021-2022 school year. “It allows commitment to enter the mindset when a mentee can look up to their mentor and think, ‘If they can achieve this, then so can I.’”

“The goal of the program is to help our beginning design students relate to the experiences of students who are more advanced and to learn more about opportunities for them in their chosen profession,” said Mary Anne Beecher, chair of the Department of Design.

“I have not met any individuals who look like me in design, but with the promotion of this program, it can seek to inspire others to look into design and all that it offers,” Perez said.

Autumn 2021 marked the first scholarship awards and mentorship pairings. Students meet regularly as well as with Visiting Assistant Professor Shadrick Addy, the program’s advisor.

Overall, the goal of the program is for students to feel connected and supported. Wisne hopes participants will ultimately capitalize on the opportunity, “We see students as explorers and this fund as simply another tool students can use to equip and sustain their exploration.”

“By increasing diversity in the design industry, we can realize the full potential of design by creating environments and environments and products that address the needs of all people,” Wisne said. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Ohio State on helping more students succeed and pursue degrees and careers in design. We hope to inspire other design firms to support the program so we can continue to expand the number of students it supports.”

Click here to support the Mayo Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program.

About Roto

Roto is an interdisciplinary creative design agency offering planning, experience design, immersive media, interactive engineering, and custom fabrication for museums, brands, attractions, and architectural placemaking. Its clients include the National Museum of American History, the Legacy Museum, the Columbus Center of Science and Industry (COSI), the Northern Virginia Science Center, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and the National Museum of Military Vehicles.

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