Leslie Roberts

I am a writer, researcher, Antarctic historian, creative strategist, team builder and leader. 

In my role as Dean of the Design Division at CCA, I lead close to 900 students and 200+ faculty each semester, covering diverse design studies including the transdisciplinary 2- and 3-year MFA in Design, interaction, illustration, furniture, industrial, fashion, graphic, a unique design MBA and a new MDes in Social Innovation, launched Fall 2015. The Design Division has actively participated in the CCA's recent National Science Foundation award, exploring and developing prototypes for mobile units for science education in an art school context. In 2015, I co-wrote a National Endowment for the Arts grant, which we were awarded in partnership with a Stanford-based medical group.

I have primary responsibility for the vision, leadership, and administration of the fastest-growing division at CCA. My vision is very much tethered to both my journalism roots and my current writing practice -- and to my evangelical belief in "steam over stem." The arts and design are essential vehicles for evolving social and individual agendas, for cultivating and developing not just a mode of expression but a relational identity to The World. The arts and design in their many forms teach us what it means to be human.

At CCA, we offer students a rich liberal arts core program as freshmen, leveraging Bay Area intellectual resources to educate young people towards deep engagement in the critical issues of their times. Their subsequent work as designers reflects essential CCA values of equity, criticality, and sustainability; CCA design graduates work for thought-leading companies including Google, Autodesk, Uber, Chronicle Books, Lego, Intel, among many others. 

I spend a lot of time talking to people and partnering with people in the Bay Area tech and design communities -- learning about the opportunities and challenges facing the business community where many of students will ultimately work -- at both the tech giants and small start-ups. My philosophy is that higher education in the 21st century has a unique opportunity to partner with industry and community peers in shaping culture -- learning, adapting, and adopting both subtle and paradigm-shifting technologies.

I have been Chair of the MFA Design program at CCA, where I worked to expand the student enrollment via the addition of a three-year MFA in Design geared towards students interested in shifting into design from other disciplines. 

I wrote my first book, The Entire Earth and Sky: Views on Antarctica (University of Nebraska Press, 2012, 2008), while the world's first Fulbright Fellow in Antarctic Studies. My Antarctic work spans many years of histories, exploring the "little known" storie of simple seamen; I have delivered talks and papers at the Stanford Linear Accelerator, the New Zealand Studies Association (London), as well as to scientific groups at universities in the United States.

Prior to migrating to academia, I reported the news around the globe, writing hundreds of articles and essays for magazines, newspapers, and literary journals, including the Sydney Morning Herald, the Bangkok Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Bellevue Literary Review, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Iowa Review online.

Professor, non-tenure, Design and Writing, CCA

Dean of Design

Dean, Design
Professor, Design
Professor, Writing and Literature


BA, University of Michigan; MA, University of Canterbury, New Zealand; MFA, University of Iowa