Connecting lip balm to an eraser? Creative & collaborative processes to develop flexible thinking

A Connections Seminar

Creative problem solving, ideation, and flexible thinking are often cited as essential skills for our students’ success in their professions. Among the top ten skills needed in the year 2025, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020, are creativity and active learning strategies. Hands-on pedagogical practices within the field of visual arts are designed to develop these skills, to enhance student collaboration, learning, and communication. In this context they increase the relevance of history and theory to first-year Built Environment students. 

UNSW Visiting Teaching Fellow, Associate Professor Susan Giles, will discuss her collaboration with UNSW’s Senior Lecturer in Architectural History and Theory, Cristina Garduño Freeman, in which they introduced experiential learning approaches to scaffold ideas about research, history, and culture. Activities included practical exercises to develop ideas for new ways to communicate perceptions, group brainstorming through OpenAI’s DALL-E visual iterations, and categorising objects to make meaningful and unexpected connections. In this Connections seminar, participants will have the opportunity to experience a similar hands-on exercise designed to develop students’ capacity to work together to expand idea development and analytical processes. The seminar will be followed by light refreshments and networking.

These fellowships are funded by the Education Focussed program.


About the Speakers

Susan Giles headshot

Susan Giles is an Associate Professor and Curriculum Coordinator in the Department of Contemporary Practices at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago as well as an artist working in interdisciplinary media. She has a Master of Fine Arts from Northwestern University where she held a Fellowship at the Searle Center for Teaching Excellence. She has a Master of Arts in Art Education from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Giles’ artwork work has been shown in Chicago at Hyde Park Art Center, THE MISSION Gallery, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and The Renaissance Society, as well as Mixed Greens in New York, Five Years in London, and Galería Valle Ortí in Valencia, Spain, among others. Her grants include Individual Artist Project Grants from DCASE in 2022, 2019, 2017 and 2015, awards from the Illinois Arts Council in 2014 and 2009, a 2005 Louis Comfort Tiffany Award and a 1998 Fulbright Grant. She is the recipient of two Faculty Enrichment Grants from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is currently a Visiting Teaching Fellow in Built Environment at UNSW.

View Susan's website


Dr Cristina Garduño Freeman headshot

Dr Cristina Garduño Freeman is a Senior Lecturer in Architectural History and Theory at UNSW. Her research focuses on understanding, evaluating, and designing for, people’s connection with places contributing to the fields of architectural history, critical heritage and digital humanities in relation to contemporary cities, and Modern and Industrial Architecture.  

Her teaching seeks to make the history of architecture relevant to student’s lived experiences, in order to empower them to think critically, and; contribute to their professional skills. This requires flexibility and agility, a nuanced understanding of digital experiences and practices, graphic skills to create strong impactful content, and creative approaches to building strong relationships with students. She leads the annual UNSW Architecture Graduate Exhibition, ARCHEX.

In 2018 she published her first monograph with Routledge; Participatory Culture and the Social Value of an Architectural Icon: Sydney Opera House. She is the CoChair for the ICOMOS General Assembly 2023 and is currently the Secretary of the Society of Architectural Historians Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ). She holds an Honorary Research Fellowship in ACAHUCH at The University of Melbourne. She has worked in State Government in Heritage NSW and collaborated with Heritage Victoria and Lovell Chen. Prior to entering academia, Cristina worked professionally in Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Visual Communication Design. 



This event is a part of the Connections series, consisting of seminars and workshops that provide you with the opportunity to learn from your colleagues to inform your own teaching practice.