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Stanford to direct design thinking at Elon

Dawan Stanford will facilitate bringing the best of design thinking practices to curricular and co-curricular experiences across campus. 

Elon University has named Dawan Stanford as the director of its design thinking initiative.

A thought leader in design thinking, Stanford is the founding design director at the Education Design Lab, a higher-education innovation nonprofit in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Stanford has owned and operated Fluid Hive, a design-driven innovation studio where he combines design, design thinking, research and his Silicon Valley and international business experience, since 2008. Stanford also led and managed Design Thinking DC, an organization with more than 2,000 members representing expertise across design, business and technology.

Dawan Stanford, director of design thinking at Elon

​Design thinking is a creative, solutions-generating process that starts with understanding real issues in real contexts. It then focuses on generating and testing solutions by encouraging creativity, teamwork and collaboration across many disciplines, along with experimentation and learning from failures.

At the Education Design Lab and Fluid Hive, Stanford has worked with colleges, universities and educational organizations to help them use design-driven processes to tackle complex challenges and better serve students. Design research, design challenges, workshops, innovation facilitation methods, prototyping and visual ideation tools are among the methods Stanford has utilized in his work with students and faculty.

Since last fall, Stanford has been working with Elon faculty, staff and students to help facilitate, advise and advance programming at Elon, as well as to connect them with others around the country doing similar work. “By Design,” Elon’s design thinking initiative, is aimed at further enhancing Elon’s premier experiential learning environment. The goals include better integrating student learning, assisting students in productive risk-taking and innovation, forming stronger partnerships and increasing innovation within the liberal arts tradition.

Grassroots faculty innovations with design thinking at their core were in motion before last fall when the “By Design” initiative gained form. Elon has already launched several efforts, including the groundbreaking immersive semester course, Design Thinking Studio in Social Innovation; the interdisciplinary innovation space of the Maker’s Hub; the learning community-orienting Innovation House; the cross-disciplinary Elon 101 pilot course framed by design thinking; and a design-driven revision of the entrepreneurship major. Working with faculty and staff across campus and reporting to the Senior Associate Provost, Stanford will build on these early initiatives and provide opportunities for students, faculty, staff, and community partners to address challenges well-suited to design thinking’s processes, methods and mindset.

Support for Elon’s design thinking initiative comes thanks to trustee Cindy Citrone and her husband, Rob, of Southport, Connecticut, who last fall announced their intention to fund innovative new efforts to integrate design thinking into curricular and co-curricular experiences across campus.

Stanford has lived, studied and worked in Dubai, France and cities across the United States. He has been a practicing attorney as well as an assistant professor of media and communications. Stanford received his doctorate in media and communications at the European Graduate School, a law degree from Berkeley Law, and his bachelor’s degree in business administration from San Diego State University.

Stanford starts in the new role on Feb. 1.

Owen Covington,
2/1/2017 8:00 AM