Student Catalysts lead at the Center for Design Thinking

Student Design Thinking Catalysts offer workshops, project consultations, open resource hours and more!

The Center for Design Thinking is one of the assets supporting Elon University’s commitment to experiential learning, but because it’s still fairly new, it remains somewhat of a hidden gem on campus.  The Center is now supporting student Design Thinking Catalysts, offering workshops, project consultation support, open resource hours and more.

Seniors Trés Jones, a strategic communications major, and Mackenzie Hahn, who majors in international studies and political science, are two of the student catalysts in the Center for Design Thinking, and they recently shared their perspective of what that role entails and what they’ve learned along the way.

Stimulating Workshops and One-on-One Support

Hahn described the Center as an excellent resource for all Elon students, faculty and staff. Students can come to the center to get help structuring papers and projects, collaborating as a team, or for facilitated workshops. Instructors can bring their classes and get new ideas for making their classrooms more engaging and accessible to students.

“The center is an excellent resource because we work to break the patterns all of us get stuck in,” she says. “Often during workshops our participants end up addressing a problem they had not even realized was a problem before.”

Jones confirmed this point, saying “Here at Elon, we have a process that intentionally makes you think about next steps when you’re trying to solve a problem or work toward a goal. Taking risks and figuring things out is all that we do in this life. The design thinking approach is valuable in all aspects of my life.”

Hahn said all the student catalysts bring a unique perspective to problem-solving, which is part of the value the Center provides. “Those learned experiences stimulate the conversations we’re having,” she explained. “It makes everything a much deeper process.”

Any Major Can Benefit From the Design Thinking Approach

Hahn emphasized how learning about design thinking has helped her as an international studies and political science major because her studies have been largely focused on researching and understanding human migration. Though Jones has a very different major in strategic communications, he said the design thinking process will benefit him in his future career as a brand planner because it has taught him to be intentional about the audience he’s addressing.

“As catalysts, our challenge is to figure out how to approach a group that often knows nothing about design thinking and get them on board with the idea,” Jones says. “We are fully immersed in the design thinking process, and we help faculty, students and staff adopt the same mindset.”

Jones plans to build on his experience with the Center in order to study brand design in graduate school.

As Hahn prepares for graduation this spring, she has already begun interviewing for post-graduate job opportunities. She said that of all her college accomplishments, her work as a student catalyst has been the most asked-about item on her resume.

“I think the most valuable personal skills that I’ve gotten, beyond the academics and the degree itself, has been participating in these workshops and learning from my co-workers,” Hahn says.

An Environment to Learn From Your Mistakes

The center’s open design sparks creativity and collaboration. Hahn says it operates as a “nexus for connecting students, staff, and faculty across disciplines. It has plenty of space where people can feel comfortable expressing their ideas, and the interactive workshops feature no shortage of two-way, active conversation. This is fundamental for a liberal arts education and for our campus to be as innovative as it can be.”

Hahn estimates the offerings at the Center have grown fivefold since she’s been serving as a catalyst, as more people in the Elon community learn about the design thinking process and see the potential of what it can offer.

“You have the safety to fail here, and nobody’s going to judge you,” Jones says.

The Center for Design Thinking is open to all Elon students, faculty and staff. Walk-in hours are Monday to Thursday from 2 to 5 p.m. You can schedule a workshop or request a consultation here.

To learn more, email