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Environmental Portrait of Professor Sarah Rottenberg in the School of Design Credit: Krisha Vasani , Krisha Vasani

The School of Design, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the Wharton School of Business have something new in common this fall — they are all part of the Masters in Integrated Design degree.

This marks the first year that outside students can apply for MIPD. It is also the first year that students are graduating from Penn with an MIPD. In the past, students could only apply for a Masters of Engineering in Product Design, but the School of Design decided to offer an alternative path for those interested in product design but without engineering backgrounds.

“We realized we weren’t only turning out engineers. we were turning out people with different skill sets,” Sarah Rottenberg, associate director of the MIPD program said about how the program used to work. She also attributed the decision to create the MIPD to the fact that the engineering background required for the MSE was intimidating for many potential design students.

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Di Wei Shou, who is in her first year in MIPD, decided to enter the program because it didn’t require her to have an extensive engineering background. “I’m interested in engineering but I’m not so good at it,” she admits.

MIPD is a program that teaches students how to design a product with the perspective afforded by three different schools at Penn. Students in the program take a wide variety of courses, from marketing in Wharton to mechanical design in Engineering.

Anna Couturier, a second year graduate, appreciates the interdisciplinary nature of MIPD. “It’s something that I was hoping to find in an undergraduate program … It’s great that we get tons of different viewpoints.”

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Rottenberg compares the MIPD curriculum to a three-legged stool, with each leg representing either design, business, or engineering. “The nice thing about the MIPD is that we can bring in students from any of the three backgrounds..its pretty amazing that Penn can pull from three different world-class schools,” Rottenberg said. “It’s much broader than a traditional industrial design program.”

A key part of the degree is the thesis, which gives students the freedom to “pick an area of study to dive into …[and] identify needs that aren’t being met,” Couturier said. They are then expected to design a “human-centered” product to address the need, as well as create a viable business and marketing plan. She gives an example of a team last year that created wristbands for people with hypertension that measured their blood pressure, notified them of when they needed to take their medication, and included a compartment for medicine storage.

The additional focus on the business side of design is attractive to students. Shou said, “I want to focus more on design and business and how to connect them together.”

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