A Q&A with School of Art’s Tom Hapgood
In this conversation, Hapgood talks about working with refugees and armed forces veterans while utilizing the benefits of the power of design, the amazing growth and changes he’s seen in nearly 14 years with the college, and striving to combine teaching interesting and useful skills with the understanding that a career should be rewarding and even enjoyable.
Q: Tell us a little about your research, academic passions and/or role within the college. What excites you about this?
Lately, my work has involved applying a design process to and utilizing the benefits of the power of design’s potential, in working with refugees and armed forces veterans.
I also have been actively involved in the role of design with the vibrant local startup community of businesses and non-profit organizations.
My work often involves identity design, mobile web and app development, business design consulting and elevating the role of the designer within organizations.
Q: How long have you been at Fulbright College? What have you enjoyed most about your time here?
I arrived here in the fall of 2005 from the University of Arizona. There has really been something special about this campus and this town that I felt while interviewing and have enjoyed being part of these 13 and a half years.
It’s the interesting mix of long-time Arkansans, national and international transplants, refugees, people working for and around large corporations, the passionate people of the non-profits and the energy of those in the startup community.
I have seen some big and positive changes in everything from increased student enrollment, the presence of the School of Art on campus and the planning and kick-off of our new Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design program, among many other things.
I also enjoy our program’s relationship with the firms and agencies in the design community here, especially as we’ve gotten a vibrant chapter of our professional design organization AIGA up and running, along with a large student group.
One of my biggest joys is assisting good students to obtain internships and strong graduates in finding a design position where I know they can have a fulfilling and growth-driven career.
Q: What do you most hope your students remember from their classes and/or interactions with you?
I strive to combine teaching interesting and useful skills with the understanding that a career should also be rewarding and even enjoyable.
I attempt to bring important projects into the classroom that are relevant and useful in both a technology and problem-solving sense.
Often, I work with community organizations or businesses to provide a real-world context to projects, and am also in the process of registering many of our courses as a service learning course.
Q: What do you like to do during your time outside of the university?
I’m an active participant in my church community throughout each week, and have also loved serving as a member of the refugee-welcoming and assimilation team through the Canopy NWA organization.
I also spend time playing on an over-40 soccer team, jogging and beating David Fredrick in tennis every now and then.
Otherwise, I’m a dance dad, soccer dad, and tumbling dad, partnering with the wonderful Mrs. Hapgood on raising a bunch of teenagers.
Q: What’s up next on the horizon for you?
I’m excited about the work we’re doing to get a new master’s degree in design up and running, as well as being fully up and running with our new B.F.A. in graphic design with 90 students.
Editor’s Note: Hapgood recently shared this article, “Service Learning. Nervous Learning,” which captures the journey his user experience class took to help a local nonprofit develop an app assisting refugees resettle in the NWA community. Check it out!