LMU Professor Saeri Cho Dobson Has Designs for the Greater Good
Practice what you teach and design with a higher purpose in mind – that is LMU Art and Art History professor Saeri Cho Dobson’s motto. Since beginning her teaching journey on the bluff nearly a decade ago, the celebrated graphic designer’s pursuit of justice and moral responsibility through art has become a hallmark of her classes.
“When I went to design school, it was all about how to make your art commercial, how to sell, sell, sell,” Saeri said. “So I really fell in love with LMU’s commitment to social change and the promotion of justice. I think it’s important to make your work meaningful to others in some way and hopefully bring about positive change.”
Saeri received her bachelor of fine arts in Communication Design from the Parsons School of Design at The New School in New York City and later graduated with her master of fine arts in Communications and New Media Design from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif.
A professor at LMU for 10 years, Saeri says that one of her proudest contributions to the university thus far has been a class she created, “ART 395: Design Entrepreneurship.” It is an interdisciplinary course where design and business students collaborate to come up with marketable products that serve a community in need.
One such cohort developed an eye-catching product called “Sweet Saviors,” glucose strips for diabetic children to put on their tongues when they are in need of a spike in their glucose levels. The product removes the guesswork that parents with diabetic children often grapple with when dealing with glucose substitutes.
“It excites me to see students solving problems through graphic design,” Saeri said.
Last year, Saeri received a City of LA (COLA) Artists-in-Residence Grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs in Los Angeles. The residency program affords artists the opportunity to provide community-based, participatory projects in self-selected non-arts venues throughout the city in an effort to gather, connect and inspire audiences with little exposure to the arts.
As an Artist in Residence, Saeri hosted four intensive art workshops as well as weekly art and design activities for adults with intellectual disabilities. An exhibition in May 2017 showcased her student’s year-long art and design projects.
“This grant really enlightened me with the joy of discovery and the gift of teaching individuals with disabilities,” Saeri said.
Currently, Saeri is developing a new interdisciplinary study abroad program in partnership with the M-School at LMU that will whisk participating students off to Bonn, Germany. The Global Imagination Summer Study Abroad will be a five-week program with a focused, transformative learning experience facilitated through creative design, strategic-insight and storytelling. The centerpiece of the program will be a Fusion Food Design Project, where student teams will be paired with an immigrant resident and have the task of co-creating a cross-cultural food idea relevant to the local market.
When not in the classroom, Saeri runs her own company, “Hope by SaeRi,” which makes one-of-a-kind tote bags. Each bag sold raises awareness and funds to help support the poverty-stricken girls of Bangladesh who are often expected to marry by the age of thirteen and are denied a proper education. Partnered with the non-profit “Speak Up for the Poor,” Saeri’s company is currently raising money to build education centers and dormitories for displaced young women, as well as provide books and educational supplies for young girls-at-risk in Bangladesh. Since launching in 2010, “Hope by SaeRi” now serves 526 girls in 18 villages, with plans to expand efforts to Cambodia, India and Thailand in the future.