A self-described "spatial maker, strategic thinker and community activator interested in creating equitable spaces embedded in policy and infrastructure for global practice in local communities," Sophie Chien is in her fourth year of the five-year Architecture program at Rhode Island School of Design, with concentrations in Nature, Culture, and Sustainability Studies and Politics and Policy. Since she first stepped on campus, Sophie has seen local and global community engagement as a way to strengthen and expand her academically-grounded practice, embracing opportunities to serve diverse communities and populations through internships, fellowships, and volunteering. She works daily to invest her creative energies and unwavering idealism into projects both on- and off-campus that address issues of equity, inclusion, community building, and social impact.
I am an intrinsically community-driven person and constantly find myself using design as a tool for advocacy and social change. New to New England, I began RISD with cocurruculars rooted in the Providence community, through design education as a way to create relationships with my new neighbors, specifically with elementary school and resettled refugee populations. This work pushed me to consider the scale of social change, next by working in federal and local government. By designing with constituents, I looked for new ways to reaffirm the responsive and accessible capability of government. In all of these situations, I believe design is an underexplored approach to social change and can prioritize scalar thinking and complex spatial connections. By widening the scope of a problem and understanding how to visualize, synthesize and explain it, design can be used as a catalyst for community action.
In my current role as a Spalter Fellow at the RISD Museum, I work with local teens to create a space for fellowship and creative learning. With the students, I have conversations about RISD and its local context in Providence, while working on art and design projects. It's through relationship building we begin to dismantle the inherent power dynamics between the communities.
In all of these roles, I continue to explore ideas and the implementation of design engagement as a model of social change for stronger communities.