PQC Weekend University

Identifying Methods of Community Engagement in Highland Hills

Paul Quinn College (PQC) is a private, historically black college located in the Highland Hills neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. On the verge of closing no more than a decade ago, Paul Quinn has experienced a remarkable comeback. Now firmly back on its feet with a positive outlook on the future, the university seeks to grow and expand its impact. President Michael Sorrell, affectionately known as "Prez," dreamt of a concept for a weekend school that would help break the cycle of educational inequity in South Dallas and ultimately build a stronger relationship between the college and its surrounding community.

The primary goal started as such: find a solution that helps change the way adults view education, supplanting negative educational experiences with positive ones while providing practical skills and knowledge. Due to prior negative experiences in school, some parents fail to realize the value of prioritizing education in their children's lives. By offering schooling to neighborhood adults, children and grandchildren might be inspired by their role models to value education, thus lifting them out of 'the cycle' and setting them up for success.

 The Paul Quinn College Heritage Bell, a historic symbol of the school and its storied past.

The Paul Quinn College Heritage Bell, a historic symbol of the school and its storied past.

A few months of background research, community and expert interviews, synthesis, and prototype experiences led to a much deeper understanding of the underlying needs of the community and their viewpoints around not only education, but learning. The scope of the project expanded beyond discovering the best way to design an educational program for adults to include addressing basic needs not met in a high-unemployment, high-crime, food-scarce area, capturing hidden community talent and skill, and building partnerships with other organizations trying equally as hard to support Highland Hills.

This project fulfills the requirements of a capstone-level Studio course in SMU's Master of Arts in Design and Innovation (MADI) program. Each Studio embodies skills taught in the core MADI classes taken beforehand, focuses on a real, local, and complex challenge, and is executed through practical application of human-centered design process and skills.

Team: Andre Bouillion, Ana Rios MartinezTobie Smith

There’s a lot of talent here...modeling, rapping, singing...but people are scared to come out.
— A Highland Hills Resident
Just because you’re in that environment doesn’t mean you have to be like your environment.
— Librarian at HH Public Library