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Stanford archeologist and d.school faculty member Michael Shanks visits Elon                 

Stanford University’s Michael Shanks visited Elon to share design thinking strategies and lead a discussion on the potential role of design thinking in the future of the liberal arts.

Stanford University’s Michael Shanks, a classical archeologist, d.school faculty member and design thinking consultant, visited Elon in March to share design thinking strategies and lead a discussion on the potential role of design thinking in the future of the liberal arts.

Shanks introduces the Design Thinking in Social Innovation students to journey mapping.

Shanks is an archaeologist and specialist in long-term humanistic views of design and innovation, a senior faculty member of Stanford’s Programs in Science Technology Science, Urban Studies, Rhetoric, and in the Center for Design Research, part of Stanford’s d.school. He has directed Stanford Humanities Lab and the Revs Program, connecting automotive heritage with contemporary car design.

While he pursues fieldwork into the Roman borders, he also serves on the Mayor of Rotterdam’s Advisory Board, envisioning the city’s future, and works with many companies and organizations in developing creative cultures of innovation.

While on campus, Shanks met with faculty across Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences, introducing design thinking as uniquely connected to the liberal arts mindset, leading a workshop on design thinking ideation strategies that might be used in curriculum development, and holding discussions with leaders across the university.

Says Dean Gabie Smith, “Dr. Shanks invited us all to consider ways in which design principles can deepen our experiential learning. Faculty who have been embracing these methods are excited about bringing disciplinary expertise to bear in situations requiring trans-disciplinary collaborations.”

Shanks also met with several classes, including a classical myths course, a COR capstone seminar and the Design Thinking Studio in Social Innovation program. In the Studio, he led an interactive workshop on the strategy of journey mapping, which the students immediately applied in their ideation workshop with members of the Alamance County Wellness and Food Collaboratives to better understand their community partners’ interactions with the communities they serve. Students said the session was lively and useful, and that Shanks helped them connect design thinking, their work in the Studio and their futures as professionals and team members.

Shanks explores the idea of "t-shaped people" who have both deep disciplinary knowledge and broad understanding of the world.

In his public talk, “Scholartistry, the Way of Design, and a Future for the Liberal Arts,” Shanks drew on 30 years of authoring, research, pedagogy, consultancy, academic administration and arts practice to explore how we might foreground creativity and innovation in the liberal arts, and indeed in everyday life, while remaining true to in-depth expertise and specialist disciplinary skillsets.

Arguing that in order to be “informed, active members of our communities whose thoughts, hopes, and actions matter,” Shanks said we must consider how resilient vocational and professional skills are in fast-changing complex globally-connected world. He argued that the word needs “t-shaped people” who have both deep disciplinary knowledge but also a broad understanding of the world, and to create those people, institutions of higher education must provide opportunities for students to practice adaptability, flexibility, and transgressing boundaries, all hallmarks of the liberal arts and human-centered design mindset.

Shanks’ visit was sponsored by the Phi Beta Kappa Fund for Excellence, the Design Thinking Studio in Social Innovation program, and the Elon by Design initiative.

Rebecca Pope-Ruark,
3/22/2017 9:50 AM