Professional News

Distinguished Educator, Inventor New Dean College of Design

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 19, 2015) — University of Kentucky Provost Tim Tracy today announced that Mitzi Vernon will assume the position of dean of the UK College of Design.

Vernon is currently professor of industrial design at Virginia Tech.  Vernon has works of architecture, furniture, interiors and product design in Phoenix, Los Angeles and Chicago. Subject to approval by the UK Board of Trustees, she will join the university in September.

"We are thrilled that Mitzi Vernon is joining the University of Kentucky in this critical leadership position," Tracy said. "Professor Vernon has a unique background and diverse set of scholarly interests that make her an outstanding fit for a college that blends different disciplines and is renowned for its quality and service across the Commonwealth."

"It is an honor to be selected to take forward the rich and long history of the College of Design," Vernon said. "I look forward with enthusiasm to joining a distinguished faculty and to a partnership with Provost Tracy and the other deans."

Vernon replaces Interim Dean Ann Whiteside-Dickson, who has served for more than a year following the departure of Michael Speaks, who left UK to assume the dean's position at Syracuse University.

"We are so appreciative of Ann's leadership over the past year and her steadfast commitment to the college and the entire university," Tracy said. "She represents so well what it means to be a leader and a colleague at the University of Kentucky."

Tracy said Whiteside-Dickson did an “incredible job through a leadership transition. Transitions are often very challenging, but Ann throughout maintained a reassuring presence and steady hand of leadership.” Moreover, throughout her tenure, the college maintained its national reputation for excellence as significant partnerships continued with manufacturers, energy providers and researchers. From small river towns to large metropolitan areas, College of Design faculty and students are engaged in important service projects that address both community and global challenges. And graduates continued to be placed in leading firms, corporations and in public service.

Vernon has excelled in teaching, research and service in her academic career. 

She is the recipient of three National Science Foundation Grant awards. Two grants are focused on design of nontraditional books and exhibits for teaching science and math to middle school students. The most recent grant, awarded in 2007, is a collaborative project examining the design studio as a model for teaching the design of software-intensive systems. Vernon’s current scholarship on product form led to the development of a new studio model called "form studio" and the student design and fabrication of a traveling exhibition called "FORM: Line-Plane-Solid." She has received multiple grants over the past several years to support this work.

Vernon is the primary inventor on three U.S. patents, and she has extensive experience with sponsored collaborative projects involving industrial design, architecture, physics, computer science, engineering, and education students. She received patents as the originator of the project "Fields Everywhere."

As a professor of courses in industrial design including design research and professional practice, Vernon has received numerous teaching awards including the most prestigious teaching award at Virginia Tech, the William E. Wine Award for Excellence in Teaching (2012) and was the inaugural awardee of the J. Stoeckel Design Studio Teaching Award in the School of Architecture + Design at Virginia Tech (2012) for outstanding studio teaching.  She is currently the chair of the Academy of Teaching Excellence (ATE) at Virginia Tech; a past president of the Faculty Senate at Virginia Tech; and a member of the Virginia Tech STEM Outreach Board of Advisors.

Vernon received a Master of Science in engineering in product design from Stanford University in 1995; a Master of Architecture from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1986; and a Bachelor of Science in interior design from the University of North Carolina (Greensboro) in 1984.

Prior teaching experience includes the California College of the Arts, the University of Southern California and Arizona State University.