By Allison Campbell-Jensen

Deb Ultan
Deborah Ultan

Arts & Design Librarian Deborah Ultan has been focusing on Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Art and Art History as a liaison advising faculty and students. Now, three areas of study on the St. Paul campus — design, housing design, and apparel — will be added to Ultan’s portfolio. She says she’s really excited about the additions. (She also curates the Gorman Rare Art Books and Media Collection within Archives and Special Collections.)

“I’ll be serving the entire College of Design now,” she says, noting that housing fits well with Architecture and Landscape Architecture, and fashion suits her association with theater and dance.

Embracing all that is on offer opens up a new world of possibilities, Ultan adds. She has been working with graphic design faculty and students for many years on projects for exhibitions she developed.

“I’ve worked with the Goldstein Museum in the past on some joint exhibitions, so I see some more synergy that could happen there as well.”

Holistic approach

“My role will be to support the creativity and the collaboration and innovations that happen in the College [of Design].”

—Deborah Ultan

“I really feel like my role allows me to become more integrated into the college from a holistic point of view,” Ultan says. She’ll be able to offer her expertise to researchers’ projects that span disciplines and specialized areas.

She already has been working with students in a Global Design class taught by Tasoulla Hadjiyanni. With a focus on COVID-related issues, the students were designing residential workstations for single parents working from home or looking at sidewalk use policy and mobility issues arising from outdoor dining at restaurants. Says Ultan: “I was able to point the students to articles, images, past and current research to inform, challenge or inspire their own design solutions.”

The College of Design’s emphasis on environmental and societal issues — sustainability, cultural integrity, housing design in the face of social change, and more — has intrigued Ultan as she has been getting to know faculty.

“My role will be to support the creativity and the collaboration and innovations that happen in the College,” she says.

Moving with a tide of change

The timing of adding these new areas also is exciting, Ultan says. The College of Design may want to re-imagine their library to include a materials library and/or a biophilic library “Actual materials that student can come and hold and look at,” Ultan says. “They can create their own materials that might be added to the library or exhibited along with existing materials.”

The College of Design also is examining its structure. “They’re looking at how the disciplines are represented and how they are using their space,” she says. “They may want to bring everything together in a more multi-disciplinary approach.”

She adds: “It’s nice to be able to jump in at the beginning of that restructuring as well.” And for everyone else to benefit from Ultan’s expertise and enthusiasm.

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