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Research + Innovation

DDes Student Puts Research into Practice as Town Manager

As a student practitioner in the Doctor of Design (DDes) program at NC State’s College of Design, Moore gets to explore ways in which the town has the capacity and the capability to change as new residents and new economic decisions come into play.

Joe Moore, manager of Zebulon, NC
Photo from Aaron Moody, Raleigh News & Observer

Joe Moore is interested in the changing nature of towns. “What I’m really interested in is how towns adjust when their farm-to-market balance changes. How does the landscape of the downtown area reflect its more (or less) agrarian countryside? Exploring small town morphologies through urban landscapes and urban development has always been an interest,” said Moore.

As a student practitioner in the Doctor of Design (DDes) program at NC State’s College of Design, Moore gets to explore ways in which the town has the capacity and the capability to change as new residents and new economic decisions come into play. “My work through the program has allowed me to champion budgets, projects, and programs to re-design our downtown,” he adds. “Without the program, I would not have the skills or research to back up the budgets I’m requesting.”

Graduating from NC State with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering, Moore started out working in the private sector, but felt time and again that he wasn’t connecting or engaging with the community throughout the design process. Eventually he applied to be town engineer of Cary, NC. “I was able to use my engineering skills by interacting and engaging with the community to hear their feedback and hear what they needed, and I was able to make them part of the problem solving. It really allowed me to utilize my design skills in a new way. And as I continued to rise through the ranks, I realized that I was also interested in designing organizations – both through their community engagement and systems delivery, and also through the organization of space to cultivate community and build a better society through spatial organization.”

Knowing he wanted an advanced degree, Joe began to research terminal degree programs to find the best fit for his needs. He found that Duke and Carolina had programs that piqued his interest in public policy or city and regional planning, but overall, the program at NC State’s College of Design was the most welcoming and the most realistic for Moore’s interests. As he puts it: “This program is the best one suited programmatically and personally to attract and nurture professionals who can turn key academic research into tangible and productive action…. the epitome of the university’s DNA as a land-grant university: helping to bring the results of research to the end user.”

Program Director M. Elen Deming has put a lot of emphasis on utilizing her own professional and academic background when designing courses for DDes. “We are always looking at the program and revising, refining, and honing what we offer to bring the best experience to our students,” said Deming. The program has recently hired additional industry professionals to serve as professors of the practice to co-teach with resident faculty, and is making curricular revisions to ensure it can best meet student needs.

When he discusses the DDes program with colleagues, Moore can see a twinkle in their eye as they contemplate going for a terminal degree themselves. “I’ve bragged about this program to my professional cohort. The structure of this program and the people who run it are the best advertising for the program and the university.”

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