MIT Alumni Spotlight: Saba Ghole
Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, NuVu
SMArchS, Urban Design, 2007
By Julie Guerette
Saba Ghole is the Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of NuVu, a full-time innovation studio for middle schoolers and high schoolers. At NuVu, students learn via collaborative projects that focus on creating solutions to real-world problems. What sets NuVu apart from traditional middle and high schools is that students are not taught in classrooms, there are no subjects, and students are not graded. Instead, students work in open studio spaces, from 9am-3pm every day solving the same problem for two weeks, and then they switch to a new project.
Saba received her Master of Science in Architecture Studies (SMArchS) from MIT in 2007, three years before NuVu opened its doors to students. Still connected to MIT via location (NuVu is just down the street in Central Square), NuVu also collaborates with MIT graduate and PhD students who are doing research in pedagogy. Saba and her co-founders Saeed Arida and David Wang, also MIT Alums, founded NuVu with the vision to create a place where they could approach complex problems in the world and adapted that to a pK-12 space.
When I asked Saba why, out of the many different paths she could have taken with an architectural degree from MIT she chose pK-12 education, she said she was fascinated by the intersection of space design and pedagogy. Design and architecture, she explained, promote a certain type of interaction in educational spaces. They can either complement each other, as is evident in NuVu’s set-up with bright, open, studio spaces designed to allow students to explore and create, or they can contradict each other, as we see many times in windowless, basement classrooms.
The personal growths and creative processes outside the traditional school setting that Saba experienced as a graduate student at MIT is exactly what she wants her students to have at NuVu. While working on their projects at NuVu, students are mentored by coaches who are not traditional teachers but often professionals in various fields of technology and design. “Because students are not graded,” Saba explained, “they often do not feel the pressure of failure and have more room to take their idea and run with it.”
One of the big questions on my mind while learning about the contrast between NuVu and traditional schools was: How do students adjust to classes at a traditional school after spending a semester or year creating projects at NuVu’s studios? How do they go from solving real-world problems using hands-on and innovative solutions to studying for the SAT’s and receiving letter grades? Surprisingly, “The students find learning more meaningful and more relevant. They are more receptive now that they have actually applied the knowledge they have been taught in school for so many years,” Saba explained.
The projects students at NuVu have created range from a video about Segregation in Boston, featured in the Boston Globe, to an Unraveling Tutu for On Display Global, to The Suffering Indicator. While most students spend a semester or two at
NuVu, one student completed her entire high school career (grades 9-12) at NuVu and went on to get accepted to the Brown|RISD Dual Degree Program, a blended program that integrates both academic and design studies. Like this student, Saba says she hopes that all of her students have the chance to continue delving into the many facets of the creative design process after their time at NuVu is complete.
“NuVu creates a safe space where students can create their own limit,” Saba says. “Hopefully this pedagogy can be implanted into the DNA of schools and create change in the way students learn.”