Students launch Design for America Studio at Elon

The Studio’s first project, an accessibility mapping for visitors to the Elon campus, concluded in the spring and was approved by Design for America’s national organization in August.

Students have successfully completed the requirements to launch Elon’s Design for America Studio, an organization dedicated to the development of social innovation projects that directly benefit the local community.

The Studio’s first project, an accessibility map for visitors to the Elon campus, concluded in the spring and was approved by Design for America’s national organization in August.

A video, produced by Gilby Schultz ’20 and featuring Studio Lead Amy Zheng ’20, highlights the DFA Elon launch.

In August, Elon representatives traveled to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, to be recognized by the national organization and participate in the annual Design for America Summit.

“The DFA Summit is an opportunity for undergraduates to network and collaborate with other students in DFA studios across the nation,” said William Moner, DFA faculty advisor and assistant professor of communication design. “The national summit also allows students to learn from innovators at companies like IBM Design, LinkedIn, and Edelman, and organizations like the American Institute of Graphic Arts and Chicago’s City Bureau.”

Student team members Sarah Katherine Loos ’22 and Mikayla Ford ’22 attended the event as founding members of Elon’s DFA Studio. Others representing Elon at the Summit included Moner, Director of Design Thinking Danielle Lake, and Assistant Director of Admissions Tyson Glover ’17.

“DFA extends Elon’s commitment to engaged, experiential learning, partnering students and communities on real-life design challenges,” Lake said. “It was wonderful to see how the organization builds students’ capacities for collaborative and creative innovation.”

Design for America is a national, university-based network of campus studios that harnesses design to co-create local and social impact. DFA uses a design framework that partners students with community members in order to foster local impact and long-term capacities for social change. DFA has a national network of 1,300 current students on more than 40 campuses and a growing network of young alumni, currently numbered at more than 1,700. Since its inception at Northwestern University, DFA has engaged more than 3,000 students who have worked on more than 650 projects in the areas of education, health, economics and the environment.

A major focus of DFA Elon will be to support the 2019 YMCA Innovation Project: Lifeguard Recruitment and Retention. Economic and social trends have made recruiting and retaining qualified lifeguards a more competitive process than ever for facilities nationwide, so this fall, Elon’s DFA studio is partnering with the YMCA of the Triangle with the support of a $50,000 grant to implement innovative approaches to recruiting and retaining quality lifeguard staff. The grant, awarded by the YMCA of the USA, includes a stipend to support team leadership and team member training.

DFA Elon and YMCA of the Triangle are one of five participating DFA/YMCA partnerships to test innovations that have been developed by DFA studios across the country.

Innovation is a critical part of YMCA of the USA’s next strategic plan, and Y-USA has partnered with Design for America to test a new and comprehensive approach for accelerating innovations.

The DFA/YMCA project is managed by Loos with contributions from Studio Lead Amy Zheng ’20 and Ford, the publicity coordinator. Moner and Lake serve as faculty mentors for the Studio.

The studio is another example of students, faculty and staff innovating at Elon, which this week was ranked #11 by U.S. News and World Report for innovation.

To become involved with the DFA Studio at Elon, contact Moner at For more information about Design for America, visit the national organization’s website.