Faculty + Administration
Vivian Sanchez—Interim President
Vivian Sanchez is Interim President of NewSchool of Architecture and Design. Her professional background includes senior administrative positions within higher educational institutions and diverse global sectors. Prior to joining Laureate, as president of Whitney University System, Sanchez led a university network consisting of over 65,000 students across five higher education institutions. She formerly served as chief financial officer and senior vice president of administration at Florida International University—one of the 25 largest public research universities in the United States—and was advisor to the president of Cleveland State University. Sanchez has broad international operational experience, having led organizational expansions into diverse markets in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. She earned her M.B.A. at Harvard Business School and her B.S. in Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
Henri T. de Hahn, International Associate AIA—Provost
Prior to joining NewSchool, Henri de Hahn spent six years as Department Head and Professor of the Architecture Department of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He has also been the Principal of Atelier de Hahn, a firm based in both Switzerland and the United States, for more than 25 years.
De Hahn is a registered architect in Switzerland, and member of the Swiss Society of Architects, REG A, International Associate AIA, and numerous professional societies both in Europe and America. His research interests include a reevaluation of modernist theories through working on projects that emphasize contemporary architecture within a cultural urban context. Recent research also has led deHahn to investigate the mapping of the city as an analogous principle of settlement.
De Hahn earned his M.Arch. from Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne and his Bachelor of Science from College Saint Michel, Fribourg, Switzerland.
Linda M. Thomas-Mobley, J.D., Ph.D.—Dean of Academic and Student Affairs
Prior to joining NSAD, Dr. Linda Thomas-Mobley served as the associate director and professor of the building construction program in the College of Architecture at Georgia Tech. Prior to her tenure at Georgia Tech, Dr. Thomas-Mobley was instrumental in leading design, construction, and facility re-purposing efforts for the Atlanta Olympic Village in 1996.
Dr. Thomas-Mobley also holds distinction as an officer in the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps, in addition to having practiced construction law and business litigation since 1992. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering; a Master of Science in Civil Engineering; a Juris Doctorate (Law) cum laude; and a Ph.D. in Architecture with an emphasis on Management of the Indoor Environment.
Karen Gersten, Ed.D.—Special Assistant to the President for Institutional Effectiveness and Planning
Dr. Gersten has worked in higher education for more than 25 years, beginning her career as a part-time faculty member and eventually earning a tenured faculty position at Roosevelt University in Chicago. She formerly was the associate provost for academic programs and distance learning at Roosevelt University in Chicago, where she pioneered online programs and many innovative teaching and learning approaches.
Dr. Gersten also served as provost, interim president and president of Kendall College beginning in 2007. She moved to Laureate Education’s Institutional Quality and Integrity unit to serve as Vice President of Academic Affairs.
Dr. Gersten earned a doctorate in Reading and Adult Education in 2002 from Northern Illinois University where she studied aliteracy and the societal impact of a literate, non-reading populace. She also earned a Master of Arts in reading from Roosevelt University and a Master of Education in teaching writing and a B.A. in English from the University of Illinois, Urbana where she graduated magna cum laude, was a James Scholar, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and received a university scholars fellowship for graduate study.
Elena Pacenti —Director of Domus Academy School of Design at NSAD
Elena Pacenti is the director of the recently created Domus Academy School of Design at NSAD. Pacenti comes from Domus Academy in Milan, Italy, which is one of the top-ranked design schools in the world. She will lead the development of new global design education programs, such as NSAD’s Bachelor of Interior Design, that prepare students for careers in international design.
Pacenti previously directed the Design School at Domus Academy in Italy, and she brings the Domus Academy emphasis on advanced design methodologies for anticipating needs and trends in a continuously evolving society. The academy has received recognition from around the world, including being nominated three times by Businessweek magazine as one of the best design schools in the world. The academy also received the prestigious Compasso d’Oro award for the quality of its academic and research approaches, and it was included in the 2012 publication of Masterclass: Product Design: Guide to the World’s Leading Graduate Schools from Frame Publishers.
Pacenti brings to her new position both professional and academic expertise in design-related fields. She was director of the Domus Academy Research Center from 2002 through 2009, where she oversaw the development and coordination of design innovation research projects for the European Union and for government and private groups in Italy. In 2011, she established the Master in Service and Experience Design program at Domus Academy. Pacenti has an undergraduate degree in architecture and a PhD in industrial design, both from the Politecnico di Milano. Throughout her career, she has focused on research and application of theory and practice in the areas of service and product design.
Linda Sellheim—Director of the Media Design School of Digital Arts at NSAD
Linda Sellheim is an educator with vast experience in creating game art and digital design curricula. She leads the development of NSAD’s global digital design programs and manages its collaboration with the award-winning Media Design School (MDS) in Auckland, New Zealand.
Sellheim has broad experience in the digital arts industry as well as academia. She worked in Autodesk’s Entertainment division as a curriculum development manager and later as an education product manager. Her academic experience includes serving as academic director at The Art Institute of California’s San Diego and Orange County campuses. She has taught at the University of California, San Diego; California State University, Fullerton; University of California, Irvine; the Fashion Institute of Design & Manufacturing and the Academy of Art University.
Sellhiem earned an MFA in Visual Arts/Games and New Media from California State University, Fullerton, and a BFA in Illustration from the Art Center College of Design. She is a member of the International Game Developers Association, the Association for Computing Machinery and Women in Games International.
Kurt Hunker, FAIA—Graduate Architecture Program Chair
Kurt Hunker has been associated with NSAD since 1989 while continuing to be a practicing architect. He has won multiple design awards from the AIA and other organizations. He heads the school’s Design Clinic that pursues community projects with San Diego–based entities.
Hunker has been recognized as NSAD Teacher of the Year on two occasions, serves as guest lecturer to many local and regional organizations, and has had his designs published in regional and national periodicals.
Hunker received a Master of Architecture from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University and a B.S. in Architecture from the Ohio State University.
Leonard Zegarski, AIA—Undergraduate Architecture Program Chair
Leonard Zegarski has been associated with NSAD since 1999. During his tenure here at NSAD, he has brought experience, leadership, and professionalism in and out of the classroom. As a result, he has been recognized as Teacher of the Year (2003) and also a recipient of the prestigious President’s Award (2008). He not only serves as a fulltime instructor, but he has also been the 5th Year Level Coordinator since 2007, with a recent appointment to Chair of the Undergraduate Architecture Program.
Zegarski has been a licensed architect for over 3 decades. In 1999, his work as a professional was honored by the San Diego Architectural Foundation by awarding Mr. Zegarski with an Orchid Award for his achievement in both Architecture and Fine Arts.
Zegarski received his Master of Architecture from the University of Texas, Austin receiving a Certificate of Achievement for outstanding academic performance (4.0 GPA). He completed his Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Cincinnati.
Bruce Matthes—General Education Program Chair
Bruce Matthes has been part of NewSchool of Architecture and Design since 2009. Since joining NSAD, Mr. Matthes has been integral in the development of the General Education department, teaching a variety of courses in English Composition, Literature, Advanced Communication, and Introduction to Research. Prior to joining NSAD, Mr. Matthes gained an extensive amount of teaching experience from several higher education institutions, including his alma mater, California State University, Chico.
He has been active professionally as the co-author of two books, including a recent text, Evidence Based Design: A Process for Research and Writing, with fellow NSAD faculty members DAK Kopec and Edith Sinclair, and has conducted numerous lectures and completed several works of fine art. He also currently serves as an Advisory Board member for Studentfilmexchange.org, a nonprofit platform for students to participate in international cultural exchange via the powerful mediums of film and the Internet.
Matthes received his Master of Arts in English and his Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Food Science from California State University, Chico.
George Welch—Construction Management Program Chair
George Welch has played a number of integral roles at NewSchool, including serving as an initial member of NewSchool of Architecture and Design, LLC, as well as previously serving as Interim Chair, Construction Management Program, during which he contributed to the development and expansion of the program. He currently serves as the Construction Management Representative on NewSchool’s Curriculum and Academic Policy Council and as the academic program coordinator/faculty for both the bachelors and masters programs in the department.
Welch, who worked in the design construction business for more than 35 years before relocating to San Diego, has significant experience in all phases of real estate development, including design, code compliance, construction, ownership, management and sales, and state agency work. He is a member of the International Code Council;; a member of the Kendall College Charitable Trust; serves on the finance board of St. Paul’s Methodist Church; and represents NewSchool on the ACE Mentorship San Diego Board of Directors. He has served as a guest lecturer at Fort Hays State University in Leadership Studies and a guest lecturer for the Roosevelt University M.B.A. Program, addressing banking and chaos management
A registered architect in Illinois, Welch earned his B.Arch. with an emphasis on architectural engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign.
Michael Stepner, FAIA, FAICP—Faculty Coordinator
Michael Stepner is a former San Diego city architect, San Diego chief planner, and dean of NSAD. He also served as president of the San Diego AIA Chapter and the San Diego Council of Design Professionals.
Stepner is a frequent speaker on various subjects, including urban planning and design, land use, and social roles of architects. He is a fellow of the AIA, Institute for Urban Design, and the American Institute of Certified Planners. He holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Illinois.