Jessica Burnham, Hunt Institute Fellow

It is with pleasure we announce Jessica Burnham as a Hunt Institute Fellow. The Hunt Institute Fellows are appointed for their expertise and demonstrated excellence in their fields. During their tenure, they will collaborate on projects and contribute to the endeavors of the Institute.

Jessica Burnham has a BFA in Communication Design from the Metropolitan State University of Denver and a MFA in Design Research and Innovation from the University of North Texas. She got her start in community engagement and community-based design through her thesis project that looked at how community can be built through communication. She wanted to research transitioning from Communication Design to Designed Communication and wanted to investigate areas of the city that have gone through physical renovations but needed to also go through relational renovations. Her efforts led to creating a business association on Lowest Greenville Avenue called the Lowest Greenville Collective which led to her role as the Executive Director of the Deep Ellum Foundation for three years.

During her time in Deep Ellum she was integral with rebranding the Deep Ellum Foundation, the Deep Ellum neighborhood-wide website, and initiating extensive policies and procedures. The largest effort she helped create was the Deep Ellum Public Safety (DEPS) program that recognized the need for more public safety elements in the area and worked with property owners and business owners to raise funds on a monthly basis to hire off-duty officers and private security to patrol the neighborhood on foot during peak entertainment hours. This program has tripled the original Public Safety budget and has gotten extensive recognition and attention from the Dallas Police Department, the City of Dallas, and other Public Improvement Districts throughout the city.

Jessica also played a major role in creating a living prototype and proof of concept to shut down one of the small cross streets in Deep Ellum, Crowdus Street, to be a pedestrian only street. She headed up a design team that included members from SMU-MADI, Gensler, StudioOutside, Event Nerd, and Stash Design to build out three blocks of the street as a pedestrian plaza and then programed 52 events in 30 days. The goal of the project was to show the possibilities of what could happen in space that was exclusively for people. Her team put together a list of events and programs that could happen in a year and tested them throughout a thirty-day period. At the end of the month-long test several staff members from the City of Dallas were invited to see the space and asked about transforming the street permanently. The project proved to be successful and is slated to be a part of the 2017 Bond Program as a part of the Commerce Street Redo and should be complete by 2022.

Currently, Jessica is the Program Director and Clinical Assistant Professor of the Master of Arts in Design and Innovation (MADI) program at SMU. This program trains students to use Human-Centered Design to help solve and improve unwieldy social problems. Jessica lives in Richardson, Texas and loves finding new restaurants, going on long road trips, and exploring any art history museum she can find with her husband and two young boys.

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