BAC Instructor Presents at Environmental Design Conference

Research explores the concept of relaxing birthing centers

Design for Human Health intensive; photo courtesy of Davis Harte

Design for Human Health intensive; photo courtesy of Davis Harte

BAC instructor J. Davis Harte, who teaches the research methods and thesis studios in the Design for Human Health program, recently presented at the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) conference. The research behind her presentation, which focused on birthing centers, required a strong evidence-based approach based on qualitative methods—using video recordings of events or interviews. This type of methodology, among many others, is exactly what Davis brings to her students at the BAC.

"Teaching research and thesis to design students can be a challenging process because design students often prefer more interactive learning opportunities," explained Davis. "In order to help students better understand the concepts and ideas of research, I often bring in my own work to demonstrate how exciting research can be."

The presentation Davis gave at the EDRA conference is linked to specific research she conducted in Australia, at the University of Technology Sydney, where she was working on her PhD dissertation entitled "The Childbirth Supporter Study."

One of the fundamental ideas behind Davis's research is that a person giving birth will have a better experience and fewer complications when she is more relaxed—a goal that can be achieved through design. Davis took her research and has been using it to help create more comfortable spaces to make the birthing process less stressful.

"Hospitals as a behavior setting can be very stressful, which can add to the stress that is already present in the process of giving birth," explained Dak Kopec, director of the BAC's Design for Human Health program. "The idea of a relaxing birthing center is to remove the stress related to the behavior setting."

"I have found that being a researcher myself, and engaging in current research related to my passion of birthing centers, allows me to better understand the situations and circumstances that students face," added Davis. "I am able to help them navigate potential barriers and complexities that can accompany research."

By bringing her research experience into the classroom, Davis hopes to continue to help BAC students see and understand the process, and to spark rich conversations that help students critically analyze their own approaches to research.