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Design Thinking concentration

The Master of Fine Arts, Design Thinking concentration is a 100% online, terminal degree option that provides students with in-depth experiences using the design process to solve complex problems.
woman student in classroom
  • The Design Thinking concentration is 100% online designed to augment any bachelor's or master's degree.
  • Students participate in interdisciplinary teams using creative and multifaceted design methodologies that address international issues.
  • Students are not required to have a design degree to enroll.
  • The program can be completed in two years as a full-time student or in four years as a part-time student.
  • As a terminal degree (similar to a Ph.D. or doctorate), the concentration in Design Thinking not only prepares graduates for professional careers but also prepares students to teach in higher education.
  • Design Thinking is a process highly valued in the business community. The Radford program is often compared to an executive MBA program and positions graduates well for leadership positions in a variety of industries.
  • The program is taught by designers who are experts in problem-solving strategies.

Design Thinking suits almost any professional

The MFA in Arts-Fine Arts with a Design Thinking concentration is ideally suited for students who are seeking to advance their professional careers by obtaining the education and skills needed to design methodologies that address international and domestic issues. Akin to an executive MBA program, Design Thinking prepares its graduates for leadership roles in a variety of industries – not just fields typically associated with design.

Some of the potential career opportunities for graduates include:

  • Team leader
  • Manager
  • Director
  • Executive
  • Trainer
  • Specialist
  • Strategist
  • Policymaker
  • Consultant
  • Professor

An MFA in Arts-Fine Arts with a Design Thinking concentration opens doors for graduates with a variety of backgrounds and undergraduate degrees. The degree enables graduates to be leaders in business and industry because of their unique skills and experiences. Additionally, because this is a terminal degree, graduates from this program are able to teach in higher education. 

Diversity in Design

The Department of Design is dedicated to providing a quality education to all students by inspiring them to shape the future of Design. We are committed to our community by encouraging an environment that is welcoming, supportive, inclusive, and diverse. We recognize that all voices and opinions matter and strive to create a sense of belonging.

Admissions Requirements

Individual applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Applicants who can demonstrate evidence of creativity and leadership are most qualified. An undergraduate GPA of 3.0 is prefered.

The following materials are required:

  • Three letters of reference
  • Transcripts reflecting undergraduate degrees and grade point averages
  • Resume or vita reflecting prior work experience/work history
  • Statement of philosophy, overall goals and why obtaining this degree is important for your future

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will it take to earn my master’s degree in design thinking?
Students who enroll full-time in the design thinking program will typically complete their degree in two years. Students enrolled part-time will complete their degree in four years.

Does the program require me to come on campus?
The program is a 100% online graduate program. There is no residency requirement and students need not ever set foot on the Radford University campus.

What does it mean when you say the MFA is a terminal degree program?
A terminal degree is the highest academic degree in any field of study. An M.F.A. can be compared to a Ph.D. or doctorate and those who hold an M.F.A. are qualified to teach at the collegiate level.

Will I have time to work a full-time job and enroll in this program?
Yes! We have found that students who work a full-time job can often enroll full time in the program. If your job is particularly demanding, you have more than one job, or you have many family demands on your time, you may wish to enroll part-time in the program.

My employer offers a tuition reimbursement program – does the master’s degree in design thinking program qualify?
Contact your human resources office for specifics, but many students participate in their employers’ tuition reimbursement program. In fact, many employers encourage their staff to enroll in 100% online programs because the curriculum doesn’t require classroom attendance that might conflict with regular working hours.

Are there any specific technology requirements for the program?
Because the program is offered 100% online, reliable Internet access is required. Beyond that, your personal computer will be your most important technology tool. Therefore, we have established minimum standards for your computer. We recommend the Lenovo T520 laptop, but any personal computer that has the following specifications will meet the program requirements:

  • 8GB Memory
  • 500GB hard drive
  • Graphics: NVIDIA N12P-NS1 1GB Optimus
  • Wireless 802.11b/g/n
  • 9-cell battery
  • Microsoft Office

Is financial aid available?
Yes, for those who qualify. For information related to tuition and financial aid, refer to the Financial Aid Office.

Are there particular class times when I must be online or may I work on my own schedule?
Design Thinking is asynchronous meaning you can set your own schedule!  Professors may require that work be completed within set deadlines but there are no scheduled class meetings.  It should be noted, however, that the very nature of design thinking warrants teamwork and collaboration. You will be required to coordinate and schedule meeting times with team members to collaborate and work on projects.

How will a master’s degree in design thinking benefit my career?
As a design thinker you are empowered with strategies to solve complex problems with empathy and creativity. These skills are highly valued in today’s market. Additionally, because you are an online student, you will develop collaborative communication skills that will enable you to lead domestic and international multi-disciplinary teams to the development of innovative solutions. Regardless of the discipline, a degree in design thinking catapults graduates to the top of their field!

I have never taken a course online. What can I expect?
There are three major differences between courses offered on-ground and those offered online:

  • Communication is one of the most significant differences. Instead of meeting face-to-face, you will interact with professors and peers via e-mail, web-conferencing, instant messaging and the telephone.
  • The delivery of lecture material is also vastly different. Radford University uses the Design to Learn (D2L) platform to host and manage course materials. Online lectures differ from the traditional on-ground delivery.  Lectures are posted to D2L and may include audio and/or video presentations. Additionally, students may also be required to participate in webinars or link to view various online videos.
  • The final major difference between modes of delivery is class participation. A critical component to the online environment, students should expect to engage in discussion boards, blogs, assignments, projects, and exams.  

Because the program in Design Thinking is asynchronous (meaning far less supervision than a traditional class), students must be self-motivated and disciplined.  It is important to set a schedule (and stick to it!), have the appropriate hardware and software and become familiar with D2L.

How much time should I expect to spend on coursework?
Online class expectations mirror the rigor of an on-ground course. Each class may have different expectations but at minimum, students should expect to spend 3 hours outside of class each week for every credit earned in class (e.g. for a 3 credit course you can expect to spend a minimum 9 hours outside of class and 3 hours in class each week).

What does Art-Design Thinking mean?
Our program offers an M.F.A. in Arts-Fine Arts with a concentration in Design Thinking.

“I chose Radford University’s Design Thinking program because of the relevant design methodologies it focuses on. The program is completely online, an important factor for me as a working professional."

Nakia Shelton '20

We want to get to know you better and we are excited that you are ready to take your next step and learn more about us. We are here to help you and look forward to working with you during your college search process.