Rachel Switzky named inaugural director of the Siebel Center for Design


Nicolas Zurcher

Portrait of Rachel Switzky

University alumna Rachel Switzky will be the inaugural director of the Siebel Center for Design starting June 18, pending approval by the University Board of Trustees.

Switzky is the executive director at IDEO, an international design and consulting firm, and she has worked for several Fortune 100 companies, where she led teams in digital design.

The search for a new director has been going on for several months, said Robin Kaler, associate chancellor for public affairs, said in an email.

“As a graduate of the University and as a practitioner of design for over 15 years, I was ecstatic to first read about the formation of the Siebel Center for Design and then to learn about the search for this role,” Switzky said in an email. “I applied on a whim, and now here I am in the position.”

Switzky said she is excited to have been selected and given the honor to create something new from the ground up, and she is really excited to work closely with students.

According to a University press release, the Siebel Center for Design, the first of its kind, is set to begin construction April 24 and is expected to be completed in early 2020. The building’s makeover will facilitate five collaboration studios to house up to 400 students.

Switzky said she doesn’t want to wait for the new building to be complete before beginning to work on an approach plan.

“I want us to be fearless, to begin experimenting with pilot courses, so we can start learning about how we can best scale new skills across the whole campus,” she said. “I want to learn where design-thinking activities are taking place in order to leverage and build upon all the cool things people around campus have already been doing.”

The Siebel Center for Design will include a studio for full-sized prototypes, a 3-D printing workshop, machinery for water-jet cutting, two digital media studios and virtual reality technologies.

The center is estimated to cost $48 million. The Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation donated a gift of $25 million, and the remaining dues will come from institutional funds.

Thomas Siebel is also a University alumnus, the chairman of the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation and the chairman and chief executive officer of C3 IoT, an enterprise software company.

The center will facilitate and support innovative approaches to product, process and user interface design, with an emphasis on societal relevance and creativity, Kaler said.

“It’s incredible to be given the opportunity to come back to the University and share the learnings of my career, all of which started with my training at Illinois,” Switzky said.

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