New managing director settles in at Engagement Lab


Emerson’s Engagement Lab named Mariko Davidson the new managing director, according to the department’s newsletter.

Davidson, 33, started at the lab on July 1. The lab uses technology and game design to spread information on civic engagement, and Davidson now oversees all lab projects and manages partnerships with other organizations. She takes over the title from Emerson alumnus Stephen Walter, who stepped down after three years. Walter left to pursue other opportunities, according to Gordon.

“I love the culture in the lab,” Davidson said. “It’s very playful.”

Davidson has a Master’s degree in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has previously worked on urban development projects at the Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, and the East-West Center, an organization that promotes relationships between the United States and Asia in Davidson’s hometown of Honolulu, HI.

Eric Gordon, director of the Engagement Lab and an associate professor in the visual and media arts department, said that Davidson was the type of person they wanted to hire. He said Davidson understood the relationship between research and practice when it came to lab projects, and that she knew how to work with both students and clients.

“She carried herself well, and continues to do so,” Gordon said. “She has a confidence about her that is required for this job.”

Davidson said she wanted to work at the Engagement Lab because she likes the way they work with global and local issues of civic engagement, which she said are her strengths.

“I’m still getting a sense of the lab,” Davidson said. “I’m getting my feet wet.”

Davidson said she plans on helping expand the Engagement Lab into more global and government work, and to move beyond just games, which the lab is known for. To date, the lab has produced nine of these programs, including Emerson Uncommon, which is part of larger project, Community Planit, and was released in Fall 2014.

She said she is particularly excited about working on partnerships with the Boston Civic Media Consortium –– a network of local universities, government, and organizations focused on civic engagement –– and Living Cities –– a national philanthropic group that uses urban planning to address low-income areas.

Davidson said she also hopes to build a better connection with the Emerson campus.

Gordon said that as the lab enters it’s fourth year, he sees it moving from a “start-up” project to a more solid company.

“I’m excited to see it stabilize,” Gordon said. “I’m excited to see [Davidson] usher that in.”