Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies

MFA in Collaborative Design

The MFA IN COLLABORATIVE DESIGN brings together a unique faculty of Portland’s working professional creatives with students who wish to continue working while expanding skill-sets and networks through late afternoon and evening classes. 

We offer a structured, yet flexible, curriculum that takes participants through current and emerging knowledge sets, including systems thinking, problem identification, stakeholder engagement, scenario planning, collaboration, visual facilitation, brainstorming, design research, rapid prototyping, cultural entrepreneurship, and more.

Together, participants incubate, accelerate, and launch initiatives that address “wicked problems” at various scales. A few examples: a suite of physical and cognitive tools to help veterans combat PTSD, a design/maker space to empower community, an interactive system for treating and preventing pediatric migraines, product/market design strategies that restore ecosystems.

Design, research, entrepreneurship, teamwork—we use all the tools available (and create some when we need to) to make it happen.


Creatively Fearless: PNCA's MFA in Collaborative Design from PNCA - Pacific Northwest College on Vimeo.

This distinctive program draws on the city of Portland, the Pacific Northwest, and the Pacific Rim as living laboratories for students to examine issues such as resource depletion, climate change, urban/rural systems, food systems, and emerging technologies, while taking into account the needs and concerns of human and non-human stakeholders.

Social, economic, and environmental change are vital components of the program, and students pursue research and create work that directly addresses these issues. Students take advantage of new technologies and partner with communities and international knowledge networks. Upon completion of the 60-credit, two-year program, students graduate with a project portfolio that features collaborative design as a process for considering and acting in today’s complex, interconnected world.

Is this the program for you?

We’re looking for emerging and mid-career designers, entrepreneurs, activists, and team members who want to take their understanding, approach, and skills to a new level. Participants come from backgrounds in art and design, liberal arts, science, policy, technology, engineering, journalism, and business, with a wide variety of life experience. It’s how we curate our diverse team that makes the difference. Our structured yet flexible late-day schedule encourages professional interaction and networking.

Our graduates are launching successful programs, working for leading design initiatives and nonprofits, creating thriving design consultancies, and working in higher education. 

Applicants are passionate about making a significant impact in the world. We’re passionate about enabling change-makers.

To receive information or updates on the MFA in Collaborative Design, fill out the inquiry form and contact Peter Schoonmaker, Program Chair, pschoonmaker [at] pnca [dot] edu.

Applications are currently being reviewed.

Program Highlight: BLIGHT Magazine

BLIGHT Magazine, published by MFA in Collaborative Design

Now in its fifth issue, BLIGHT Magazine is written, edited, designed, and published by students in the MFA in Collaborative Design program. Broadly, BLIGHT initiates design conversations around the complex issues the program addresses.