Think Differently

Artist Carlos Cruz-Diez sees urban streets as a medium for art. The ability to think outside the lines is intrinsic to the Kroc School’s new Master of Arts in Social Innovation.


What does a crosswalk look like to you? In most intersections in the U.S., a pair of thick white lines stretching from one side of the road to the other is pretty much the norm.

But artist Carlos Cruz-Diez sees things differently. His kinetic artwork can be seen on crosswalks in the United States and beyond, vibrating with bonus splashes of color. His vision belies the concept that everything needs to be the same. There is room to think outside the lines.

That’s the message that Kroc School Dean Patricia Márquez stressed last fall to attendees of an event celebrating the launch of a new degree program, the Master of Arts in Social Innovation (MASI). During her presentation, she used Cruz-Diez’s work as an illustration of what thinking differently might look like as she addressed the inaugural cohort of 21 MASI students and guests.

“We need to develop Changemakers who are willing to see that not every crosswalk is the same,” Márquez said. “This is what we’re trying to build here at the School of Peace Studies. We’re trying to figure out how to solve the kind of problems we face, but we cannot do it in the same ways as we did a decade, 20, or 50 years ago.”

In May, the inaugural MASI cohort graduated. They learned from professors, from each other, internationally, and by entering the Global Social Innovation Challenge. Throughout the year, they’ve gained knowledge they can put to good use.

In addition to the new master’s program, the school has unveiled the Wasson Social Innovation Lab space within the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. Wes Wasson, CEO/co-founder of DreamStart Labs and a generous donor to the Kroc School via student scholarships and MASI program support, is inspired by students “as the next generation of leaders, social innovators and dreamers who come in and make a profound impact not just on this community, but on the world.

“These dreamers have the courage to look out on these big intractable social problems that we all see around us in the world today and do not cower in the face of it,” he said.

A member of the Kroc School’s advisory board, Wasson is enthusiastic about how MASI students will shape the future. “They have the courage to believe that answers are out there, but only when we bring together different disciplines in science, engineering, technology and business, academia and research. They can come at these problems with a new spirit of innovation, promise and opportunity.” — Ryan T. Blystone

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