Imagine being an art student and having the chance to not only attend, but also to display your work in Italy, Brazil, Portugal, and Turkey.
Thanks to Professor Monica Cruz de Gusmao Correia, many students in the University of Iowa's 3D Design Program don't have to imagine such a life-changing and career-building opportunity—because they experienced it.
In recognition of her work in not only bringing the world to Iowa, but also bringing Iowa to the world, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and UI International Programs have jointly awarded Correia the 2021 International Engagement Teaching Award.
Correia heads the 3D Design Program in the School of Art and Art History and serves as the school's director of undergraduate studies for studio art. In addition, she is an internationally recognized artist in her own right, specializing in the design of furniture, lighting, and other objects, and creating large, three-dimensional artistic installations for ceilings and walls. She was named Collegiate Scholar by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2017.
Correia mentors students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Huda Al-Aithan, who earned the MFA degree working with Correia, noted that Correia has developed her program's reputation to the point where the University of Iowa 3D Design Program has four times been invited to exhibit its work in Milan, Italy, alongside the world's most respected and successful designers.
"In the spring of 2020, Monica curated an exhibition for eight 3D Design students at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile di Milano Salonesatellite in Milan, Italy. The exhibition was planned to occur in April; unfortunately, the event was canceled because of the COVID pandemic," Al-Aithan said. "Salone Internazionale del Mobile is the largest and most prestigious furniture and product design event in the world. It takes place once a year at the Milan Fairgrounds, Rho (Milan), and it attracts an average of 320,000 visitors from all over the world. Salonesatellite is the spotlight of the Salone show displaying works from only young designers and design schools from all over the world selected through an international curatorial process."
That 2020 trip would have been the program's second to Salone Internazionale del Mobile, following a 2015 exhibition at which the UI was one of only two American design schools invited to the event. Al-Aithan noted that the 3D Design Program has also twice traveled to Milan for another international exhibition.
"In the spring of 2019, along with nine other students, I was also involved in the Ventura Future group exhibition curated by Professor Correia," Al-Aithan said. "The Ventura Future is a prestigious furniture and product design exhibition held yearly in Milan, Italy. As she always is, Professor Correia was not only the curator of the exhibition booth itself; she also mentored students to be familiar with the application proposal process and managed travel plans for the students and their design work. It is not an overstatement to say that the exposure and lessons learned from this experience has shifted my perspective and offered me lifelong knowledge and opportunities to seek exhibitions independently."
Correia also led her students to several international exhibitions as part of Design Plural, a series of biennial exhibitions sponsored by the UI 3D Design Program. Undergraduates, grad students, and faculty showed their work in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2007; Caldas da Rainha, Portugal, in 2009, and Istanbul, Turkey, in 2011.
Vakhtangi Darjania, a lecturer in the UI 3D Design Program who earned his MFA working with Correia, seconded Al-Aithan's reflections on Correia's influence on her professional journey. He traveled to Milan in Italy with the program in 2015, as a first-year MFA student.
"Experiences such as these further deepens the importance of international competence in her students as the design community is global and involves various international communities," Darjania said. "Exhibitions like these help the students gain experience that cannot be replicated in the classroom, as it is only gained when traveling internationally. I experienced it firsthand. Now, as a Lecturer of 3D Design at the University of Iowa, I am happy to be part of that same program that got me on the path that I love and that continues to promote international exposure to our American and international students."
Darjania said that the internationalism in Correia's teaching is not just manifested in travel abroad.
"She brings international diversity to the classroom experience by welcoming graduate students from all parts of the world like Brazil, Argentina, China, Hungary, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, South Korea, Georgia, and many others," Darjania said. "While encouraging students to explore new methods, materials, and techniques, she also encourages students to explore individual heritage and culture, prompting them to create one-of-a-kind works."
Steve McGuire, the director of the School of Art and Art History, highlighted Correia's innovative utilization of her own background in her mentoring and teaching. She was an architect in Rio de Janeiro before coming to the UI to study with legendary UI design professor Hu Hung-shu, who then recruited her to the faculty.
"Drawing upon her own international experience, she has focused both student recruitment efforts and venues of learning on international learning experiences," McGuire said. "Monica teaches using a wide array of materials, techniques, and concepts, but critically for the success of her students, she anchors her courses in global design practices and cutting-edge technology. When you hear her presentations to students, witness her guidance of a critique, you learn that she weaves philosophy of global design throughout the entire program."
McGuire said that Correia fosters a tight-knit connection among her students, and noted their affection and respect for her.
"She has the most dedicated students and largest following of students of any faculty member in the School," he said. "Professor Correia is an exceptional faculty member and teacher, and she has shaped, over her tenure at the University of Iowa, the lives of students and the School to a degree few faculty have."