Parsons to Open Hub in Paris; Locations in Mumbai, Shanghai and More to Follow

Next fall, Parsons will open a brand new academic center in Paris that will be just one node in what executive dean Joel Towers calls a "node and network" system the institution is planning to develop all over the world.
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Dhani Mau
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Next fall, Parsons will open a brand new academic center in Paris that will be just one node in what executive dean Joel Towers calls a "node and network" system the institution is planning to develop all over the world.
A Parsons Paris fashion illustration class in the 1920s

A Parsons Paris fashion illustration class in the 1920s

Parsons is arguably the

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Parsons Paris is already accepting applications and expects to enroll around 100 students for fall 2013, with hopes that the campus will grow to 300-500 students total. It's also currently searching for faculty--full time lead faculty who have EU citizenship and adjunct faculty who work in Paris.

Towers doesn't believe that Parsons New York's approach to design education is the right or wrong approach, or that Parsons has to compete with the Europeans. "If one views competition as a zero sum game, then the tendency is to say, 'let's take Seventh Avenue and teach it on the Champs Elysee," he explained. "Well, I don't view competition as a zero-sum game. I think the French and Parisian fashion landscape is of such huge value globally that what I'm looking for is for us in New York to be able to learn from them and for us to be able to bring a little New York to the Parisian environment and see that great hybridism."

And this is all just the beginning.

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Towers's "complicated and ambitious" goals involve establishing Parsons hubs all over the world. Right now, in addition to Paris, the school is zeroing in on Mumbai, Shanghai, and Latin America (probably Brazil, if we had to guess). "The key is identifying global cities where we feel it's the right place for us to build that hub and then establishing both a regional network and connecting that to a global network."

He's pretty sure that "Mumbai is likely next" and that the plan "may move very quickly." In China, Parsons will likely begin by offering post-graduate and pre-college programs before offering graduate and undergraduate programs "because that's the way the landscape [in China] works."

Therein lies what I suspect will be the biggest challenge in Towers's international plan--different environments require different approaches to education. "[Each hub will] function differently based on local regulation, and, more importantly, on local tradition. We're just not interested in franchising Parsons as if it was a McDonald's, which some other universities do. We are very interested in working in-country and building this thread of globalization and localization into an educational environment."

It's not world domination, he says, but, rather, "world collaboration."

Photos: Courtesy of Parsons