NuVu Spotlight: Tiandra Ray

NuVu Spotlight: Tiandra Ray

Molly Powers

Introducing NuVu Coach, Tiandra Ray. Tiandra joined the NuVu team as a NuVuX Design Fellow at the Fessenden School in Fall 2018. She worked closely with members of the faculty there, to co-teach NuVuX Innovation Studios to 7th-9th grade students. After launching NuVuX programs at Fessenden and other partner schools, Tiandra joined the Cambridge staff as a full-time coach in September of 2021.

Q: What brought you to NuVu originally, were you an industry professional prior to teaching?

A: I worked in a local architecture firm as a fabrication specialist and architectural designer before coming to NuVu. I had always worked in education programs in my free time at summer and extracurricular programs. So, when the opportunity to switch to full time teaching while continuing to apply fabrication and design skills was presented, it seemed too interesting to pass up. 

The most compelling part of NuVu is how the curriculum model encourages young people to blur the boundaries of disciplines and genres. NuVu helps them build a framework to carve out their own interdisciplinary paths of more culturally aware, and compassionate design. This is what I wanted to invest my time in; helping students build a foundation of interdisciplinary education to prepare them to become the leaders of the future we need.

Q: “What are some of the projects you have supported at NuVu? Tell me about your journey here.

A: I started at NuVu as a NuVuX Design Fellow for one of our partner schools, Fessenden. I had the opportunity to work with an AMAZING team there; Curt Llewelyn, the Director of the Cignoli Center for Innovation (CCI),  Lauren Maiurano CCI Innovation Coach, and Librarian Erika Hoddinott to name a few. The maker-space truly felt like a place where students could be fully themselves, and release their curiosity through explorations in design. I’m so proud to have been a part of getting the NuVuX program started there. It continues to flourish as a space where teachers from all disciplines come together to collaborate on projects for their classrooms.

Q: What is the best part of working with students in this model?

A: The most fun part about working with students in this model is hearing about students’ ideas. Sometimes a problem that may seem mundane to an adult can seem like a mountain to a teen, and they’ll pitch a wacky far-fetched design with a deadpan straight face. There is such a vast range of experiences that students have, and along with that a vast range of things they find important, and ways they see the world. Those wacky ideas are the best part of working here. Hearing about the varied interests, and projects ideas that students come up with, and then helping them through the creative journey to represent this wacky idea is so. much. fun. Teaching at NuVu keeps you on your toes, and keeps you young. You can’t take yourself too seriously here, or anywhere really, so it’s always a really fun place to be.

Q: What is the most challenging part of working with students in this model? 

A: One of the most difficult things about teaching in this model is helping students follow through on their own ideas. Sometimes, because things can move quickly, a student might fail to see the value in - or even just forget about - an incredibly worthwhile idea. Sometimes students just don't see the vision yet, but all they really have to do in order to realize that vision is to just try it. Getting students to a place of confidence to pursue new and unexplored media, and to follow through on big ideas, can often be the most challenging part. 

Q: Imagine the year is 2030, what is the advice you would give to NuVu’s graduating class?

A: Run with the ideas you have now. Identify things that make you uncomfortable, and question the way things are working. You are now the people in the movement, you are the protestors, you are the faces in history textbooks. Embrace that you are a part of this history, even if it’s hard to realize it. A huge part of being involved in something big is following your convictions, and speaking up about your vision. The future that you see is possible, even if no one else has grasped yet. Try it out, make your voice heard now, and I promise you people will catch up.