Leadership & Staff
JOEL TOWERS, MArch, RA
Joel Towers (University Professor of Architecture and Sustainable Design) is the Executive Dean of Parsons School of Design. He has served as dean of Parsons since March 2009. In this role, he has led the design and development of innovative curricula, a deeper engagement with civic, industry, and government partners, and the strengthening of connections between Parsons and The New School.
During Towers’ deanship, Parsons has launched fourteen new academic programs that rethink the role of design in contemporary life, including Master’s programs in Transdisciplinary Design, Strategic Design and Management, Design and Urban Ecology, and Fashion Design and Society. On the undergraduate level, Towers oversaw a faculty, student and industry collaborative process for redesigning art, design and business education for the twenty-first century. Parsons innovative curricula support depth of disciplinary practice alongside breadth and transdisciplinary study while enabling students to take minors across the university for the first time.
Towers has also led some of Parsons’ most ambitious facilities projects including the Parsons Making Center, a 28,000 square foot space that spans three floors and unites the facilities of Parsons’ diverse programs and serves as the hub for a 78,000 square foot network of making spaces across The New School. The Making Center is open to all university students and faculty regardless of their area of study. This was the culmination of years of work with a goal to align the campus with the most forward-looking changes in art and design practice.
Towers came to The New School in 2004 as the first director of Sustainable Design and Urban Ecology. In 2006, he became the inaugural director of the Tishman Environment and Design Center and Associate Provost for Environmental Studies. From 2007-2009, he was the Dean of the School of Design Strategies. In each of these roles, he advanced institutional aims on a broad and ambitious scale, demonstrating a clear understanding of the shared intellectual paradigms emerging between the liberal arts, social sciences, performance, and design. Prime examples of this approach include the university-wide Environmental Studies program.
Prior to joining The New School, Joel taught in Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, developing cross-disciplinary teaching and research focused on sustainability and urban ecology in relation to urban design and architecture. In 1992, he co-founded the multidisciplinary architecture firm Sislian, Rothstein and Towers (SR+T Architects) with Karla Rothstein, which they ran together until 2011. Towers’ focus on ecological issues and their relationship to both design conceptualization and construction methodology was central to the work of SR+T, and underlies his theoretical research and teaching more broadly. Joel received his Masters in Architecture from Columbia University and his B.S. in Architecture from The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
ANA BAPTISTA, PhD
Ana was most recently the Director of the Energy and Environment Program at the Regional Plan Association where she oversaw a diverse portfolio of issues ranging from climate change to greenspace preservation across the New York metropolitan region. Prior to RPA, Ana was the Director of Environmental and Planning programs for the Ironbound Community Corporation for over seven years.
At ICC she oversaw a wide range of environmental justice, community development and community based planning and research projects in her native Ironbound community in Newark, New Jersey. Ana completed her Ph.D. in Urban Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. She received her Master’s degree from Brown University in Environmental Studies and has an undergraduate degree in Environmental & Evolutionary Biology as well as Environmental Studies from Dartmouth College.
BRIAN MCGRATH, MArch
Brian is Professor of Urban Design and served as Dean of the School of Constructed Environments at Parsons School of Design. He is also the founder and principal of urban-interface, an consultancy fusing expertise in urban design, ecology and media. McGrath is a Co-Principal Investigator in the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, a National Science Foundation's Long Term Ecological Research, where he leads the Urban Design Working Group. His books and publications include: Urban Design Ecologies Reader, (2012), Digital Modeling for Urban Design (2008), Transparent Cities (1994), Resilience in Ecology and Urban Design (2012), co-edited with Steward Pickett and Mary Cadenasso, Growing Cities in a Shrinking World: The Challenges in India and China (2010), co-edited with Ashok Gurung and Jiyanying Zha, Sensing the 21st Century City (2007) co-edited by Grahame Shane, and Cinemetrics: Architectural Drawing Today (2007) co-authored with Jean Gardner.
McGrath served as a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Thailand in 1998-99 and an India China Institute Fellow in 2006-2008 and as the Research Director in the joint US-EU Transatlantic exchange program Urbanisms of Inclusion. He received his Bachelor of Architecture from Syracuse University and his Masters of Architecture degree from Princeton University, and attended the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York. He currently serves on the Advisory Editorial Board of AD Architectural Design Magazine in London and Nakhara Journal of Environmental Design and Planning at Chulalongkorn University Faculty of Architecture, Bangkok, Thailand.
TIMO RISSANEN, PhD
Timo has been the Assistant Professor of Fashion Design and Sustainability at Parsons School of Design since 2010. Prior to Parsons he was faculty at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Australia, for seven years. He was born in Finland and trained as a fashion designer at UTS. Rissanen completed a practice-based PhD at UTS in 2013, focusing on zero waste fashion design. As an artist he has focused on fashion, labor and waste through installation, performance and cross-stitched poetry. Rissanen has co-published two books on fashion and sustainability, Shaping Sustainable Fashion (with Alison Gwilt, 2011) and Zero Waste Fashion Design (with Holly McQuillan, 2016). He co-curated the sustainability-focused exhibitions Fashioning Now in 2009 and Yield in 2011, with Gwilt and McQuillan respectively.
ADRIENNE PEROVICH, MPA
Adrienne is responsible for managing collaborative research and special projects the Center undertakes with external partners. She also oversees the day-to-day operations of the Center, fundraising initiatives and Center finances. Before coming to the Tishman Center, Adrienne served as Program Manager at Seedco, managing their housing counseling program and assisting with their work supports initiative. Prior to Seedco, she worked at The Posse Foundation and founded the first NYC Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Adrienne has an MPA from NYU’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service and a BA from SUNY at New Paltz.
MIKE HARRINGTON, MS
Mike is responsible for supporting the work of the Tishman Center by liaising with offices and departments throughout the university and implementing projects that advance The New School’s commitment to sustainability and environmental justice. Before joining the TEDC team, He worked at Elevate Energy, organizing around creating equity in the energy efficiency market; served as the chair of another environmental non-profit, the Delta Institute; and has helped manage an organic food bank garden for people with compromised immune systems. He also served on the associate board of the Green City Market, Chicago’s largest farmer’s market. He obtained his Master’s degree in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management from The New School and has a Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in Psychology, with a specialization in Industrial/Organizational Psychology.
MICHELLE J. DEPASS, JD
Michelle J. DePass is the president and chief executive officer of Meyer Memorial Trust. From 2013 to 2018, Michelle served as Dean of the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy and Director of the Tishman Environment and Design Center, which she re-launched in 2015, reinvigorating The New School’s commitment to sustainability rooted in social justice and community collaboration. Throughout her career, Michelle has been a champion of social, economic and environmental justice for people of color, women, indigenous peoples and low-income communities, as she served a civil rights lawyer; a senate-confirmed, presidential appointee in the Obama Administration; a program officer at the Ford Foundation; and the founding Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.
JENNIFER SANTOS RAMIREZ, MPA, MPHIL, PhD CANDIDATE
Jennifer Santos Ramirez is a full-time Ph.D. Candidate in the Public and Urban Policy program at the New School’s Milano School for International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy. She has a broad research interest in social justice philanthropy and how it addresses issues related to poverty, racial inequality, and environmental justice. Her dissertation research will focus on the role of participatory grantmaking in engaging grassroots groups on disaster relief and recovery efforts in marginalized communities. She recently passed the Comprehensive Qualifying Exam with honors and received an MPhil in Public and Urban Policy. With over 9 years of experience working primarily at national nonprofit environmental organizations, Jennifer has also provided external consulting services for many nonprofits in New Jersey and New York, including programs as varied as low-income housing development, substance abuse treatment, social services for those with HIV/AIDS, financial literacy, youth education, and workforce development.
ANNA YULSMAN, MA
Anna recently graduated with an MA from the New School studying Theories of Urban Practice. Her research involved exploring the relationship between education models, conceptions of nature and capitalism as a part of her graduate thesis. At the Tishman Center Anna is both a designer and researcher. Her passions include film editing, cartography as well as dance.
KEVIN CAPUNO, MS
Kevin Capuno was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, and he relocated to New York City to pursue his MS in Design and Urban Ecologies at Parsons School of Design. He is foremost a designer -- acknowledging design’s prescriptive role in alleviating pressing social issues. During his undergrad, he was curious about the intersection of urban issues and international development. Kevin aspires to strike a balance between his passion of design methodologies and community engagement.
AMANDA SACHS, MS
Amanda Sachs is a New York based environmental policy and sustainability research assistant. She has supported the research of faculty at the New School and the Tishman Environment and Design Center. She is pursuing a master's degree in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management at the New School and her main interests include environmental justice, renewable energy transitions, zero waste, and climate change adaptation.