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Jose Cotto is the Collaborative Design Project Manager at the Tulane School of Architecture Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design. Among his many responsibilities in the Small Center, he works on various design projects, fosters partnerships with Tulane University departments and community stakeholders, and leads a seminar course on public space in New Orleans, guiding Tulane students as they explore the connections between our created environment and social dynamics.

In this interview, we learned that Cotto comes from Worcester, Massachusetts. Specifically speaking, he grew up in Great Brook Valley, a small housing project. Cotto emphasizes that he grew up in a housing project, as he feels his upbringing there has shaped much of his life that followed from forming how he perceives the world to what he has chosen to be passionate about.

The path of going into design and architecture was not a linear one for Cotto. He initially intended to go into mathematics as he was a math major. When reflecting on how he initially got involved in this discipline, he thinks of the great math teachers he had, specifically one teacher that challenged him and did not let him fall behind. This teacher’s impact really helped Cotto see the importance of teachers and mentors for young students (especially in inner-city environments like the one he grew up in). When he realized going into mathematics really meant a lot of isolating himself and problem sets, he began to think of shifting his major into something that focused more on relationships, which made him think about the physical and social environment around him. After talking to some faculty at his undergraduate college, the University of Massachusetts, he found that design and architecture provided these kinds of conversations and teachings.

While design may have flashy names and complicated vernacular, at the end of the day, we are all designing for people to make this world a better place. The process can be exhausting. The technology can be complicated, but the goal is bigger than the process, so Cotto encourages designers and non-designers alike to lean in, remember the big picture, and why it’s important to engage in this work in the first place.


About Jose Cotto


About the Small Center

About the Hello from the Pluriverse Podcast

The Hello from the Pluriverse Podcast aims to open up and create a space to have conservations about the pluriversality in design.

This podcast is a project of the Design Thinking for Social Innovation Program at the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking at Tulane University.

Executive Producer: Lesley-Ann Noel, Ph.D

Sound editing

Hello from the Pluriverse 2020-2021 Student Team

Hello from the Pluriverse 2019-2020 Student Team

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