People - January 2007

Designing woman seeks to shape Triad economy
By Chris Richter

Design may not be among the first things that come to mind when thinking of the Triad. Furniture and cigarettes, yes. Textiles, maybe. But as traditional industries leave, the region’s economic boosters have designs on design. That’s where Carol Strohecker comes in.

The first director of Center for Design Innovation in Winston-Salem, she hopes to make the Triad a design center by encouraging research and entrepreneurship. She promotes interdisciplinary work in existing niches as varied as industrial design and animation. Strohecker, who started Sept. 1, is an employee of the N.C. School of the Arts and a faculty member at Winston-Salem State University.

The center is a product of a 2003 economic-development study of part of the Triad region. The UNC Board of Governors allocated $2 million for the joint project of Forsyth Technical Community College, Winston-Salem State and School of the Arts.

Growing up in Baltimore, she devoured graphic-design publications that her father, a salesman for a printer, brought home. “The way some people sit around reading comic books, I sat around reading Print Magazine.” She earned a bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Maryland in 1977 and worked as an editorial assistant at the National Geographic Society and director of publications at a Baltimore art museum. An interest in technology and art prompted her to enroll at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she earned a master’s in visual studies in 1986 and a doctorate in media arts and sciences in 1991.

Strohecker then spent nine years as a senior research scientist with Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories in Cambridge, Mass. She joined Media Lab Europe, a research institute formed by the Irish government and MIT. When it closed in 2005, she started Strohecker Associates to continue digital-media research. She read about the CDI job in The Chronicle of Higher Education, a trade publication. Her only connection to North Carolina had been visits to Biltmore Estate and Pisgah National Forest, but the center intrigued her. “I hadn’t seen such a program positioned within a regional development plan.”

Strohecker then spent nine years as a senior research scientist with Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories in Cambridge, Mass. She joined Media Lab Europe, a research institute formed by the Irish government and MIT. When it closed in 2005, she started Strohecker Associates to continue digital-media research. She read about the CDI job in The Chronicle of Higher Education, a trade publication. Her only connection to North Carolina had been visits to Biltmore Estate and Pisgah National Forest, but the center intrigued her. “I hadn’t seen such a program positioned within a regional development plan.”