Brendan Leach & Evelyn Rynkiewicz

Brendan Leach, Associate Professor and Chair of MFA Illustration, Fashion Institute of Technology USA

Evelyn Rynkiewicz, Assistant Professor of Ecology, Fashion Institute of Technology USA

Brendan Leach & Evelyn Rynkiewicz

Alexander von Humboldt, Naturgemälde. 1807 (public domain)

Drawing in the Lecture Hall


We are all born scientists. We are all born artists. Harnessing a students’ innate curiosity and creativity has the potential to improve student understanding of and engagement with class material. Principles of illustration and visual communication can be a powerful teaching tool in all areas of study. We propose a classroom model that brings the process of illustration assignments and class critique into scientific or liberal arts classrooms to facilitate student understanding, synthesis, and analysis of course material. This also improves instructor comprehension of student progress and fosters more effective classroom discussion. Images can be placed in a matrix, ranging from technically informative to emotionally informative, and from literal to abstract. Using this framework, students will have to identify the most essential pieces of information to impart, and order them in a visual hierarchy. As part of the process, students are asked to find the most effective visual approach to communicate concrete information to the largest audience. Students will be asked to consider if their image is contingent on an accompanying text, or if it is meant to stand alone as the sole method of communication. They then work in pairs to critique and discuss their illustrations, making new drafts based on this peer review. We will present work from in-class assignments with undergraduate students interacting with graduate illustration students.

This presentation will address techniques to challenge students of any major to engage with material outside of their field. By bringing the academic rigor of illustration and sophisticated principles of visual communication into the classroom of other areas of study, we hope this project will have broad application to integrating drawing practice as a teaching tool in multiple disciplines and creating interdisciplinary solutions to current environmental, social, and political problems.


Brendan Leach is a graphic novelist, illustrator, and educator. He has a BFA in Fine Arts from Rutgers University and an MFA in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts. His work has been recognized by the Xeric Foundation, the SPX Ignatz Awards, the Society of Illustrators, and Best American Comics. He is an Associate Professor and Chair of MFA Illustration at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

Evelyn Rynkiewicz (PhD) is an Assistant Professor of Ecology at FIT. She earned her PhD from Indiana University and subsequently conducted research as a postdoctoral research scientist at the University of Edinburgh (National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow) and Columbia University. A disease ecologist by training, Evie’s research investigates co-infection in wild mice, how parasites and pathogens interact with each other and with the host immune system. She uses ecological theories and approaches to study tick-borne pathogens, such as Lyme disease and Babesiosis, as well as gut parasites. Her research combines sampling and experimental manipulation of parasites and hosts from the field or laboratory experiments with controlled infection, with laboratory assays for parasite infection, microbial community composition, and immune response.