The key to ensuring that students are on the path to success is understanding who they are, according to California State University, Northridge art professor David Moon, who is being recognized with one of the California State University’s highest honors — the Wang Family Excellence Award.
“I am very passionate about finding out what the students are like,” said Moon, who has created a number of innovative and collaborative spaces at CSUN. “I don’t like putting all like-minded people together. What I want are kids with very diverse backgrounds. What I try to do is leverage the students’ strengths and weaknesses, and create an environment where everyone is challenged to ‘up their game,’ while at the same time building a community that ensures that everyone has a chance to succeed.”
The Wang Family Excellence Award is given each year to four CSU faculty members and one CSU administrator who, through extraordinary commitment and dedication, have distinguished themselves in their academic disciplines or university assignments. The awards, which include $20,000 to each recipient, were established in 1998 through a gift from CSU Trustee Emeritus Stanley T. Wang, and administered through the CSU Foundation. Moon will formally receive the honor on Jan. 25 during a meeting of the CSU Board of Trustees.
In his letter to Moon informing him of the honor, CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro said the award “acknowledges your exemplary achievements and contributions to the California State University.”
CSUN President Erika D. Beck said she was proud to have nominated Moon for the Wang Family Excellence Award.
“He is a passionate educator who is truly dedicated to student success,” Beck said. “In his many years of service at the university, he has provided successful educational experiences and life-changing opportunities for students of all walks of life.”
Moon currently heads the graphic design program in CSUN’s Department of Art and serves as the advisor for IntersectLA, a student-run, faculty-mentored strategic communication agency that provides students with a setting in which they meet and interact with real-world clients, research communication solutions to client problems, pitch solutions and carry out strategic communication plans developed through the process.
In addition to IntersectLA, Moon also co-created the Matador Emerging Technology and Arts Lab (META+Lab), which combined design and technology to inspire student entrepreneurship and innovation; the Center for Visual Communication (VISCOM), a forerunner to IntersectLA; and DesignHub, which was the first initiative in the design program to give students an opportunity to focus on community and service-based learning.
“What I was looking to do,” said Moon, who also has operated his own advertising agency, “was to create an environment in which students could apply what they are learning with real-world clients, while at the same time having the support and mentorship of faculty members who are as invested in their success as the students are.”
Moon immigrated to the United States at age 11 with his parents from South Korea in 1973. His parents found work in Los Angeles as house cleaners through a local Korean-based community group,
“I saw firsthand how community support and meaningful connections can transform lives,” Moon said. “These early encounters inspired my commitment to my students, by creating a strong sense of community and supporting each other even after they graduate. I believe that each of my students has a set of knowledge and skills shaped by their unique cultural, economic and social-emotional experiences that can help them succeed, given the right space and tools.”
Moon said the CSU, and CSUN in particular, has shaped who he is and what he does. He transferred to CSUN from Pierce College 34 years ago to earn his bachelor’s degree in graphic design and later earned a Master of Fine Arts in graphic design from California State University, Los Angeles.
He was hired at CSUN in 1990 as a member of the university’s graphic design staff. Two years later, he became a faculty member teaching graphic design in the Department of Art. Over the years, he has served as department chair and interim dean of what is now the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication.
Throughout his tenure at CSUN, Moon has worked to find ways to build creative spaces where students can “learn by doing.” He even developed a handbook about creating student-focused centers, “Pathways to a Low-Cost Student Enterprise,” that has been shared with other CSU campuses and served as a framework for such spaces at institutions like the College of the Canyons, University of Agder in Norway and Seoul Institute of the Arts in South Korea.
“This award from the CSU means so much because it honors not just a faculty member, but a former student, a former staff member and an alumnus,” Moon said. “All of those people at the CSU — students, staff, faculty and alumni — play important roles in the success of our students and the mission of the university. So, this award isn’t just for me, but for all of us.”