Jam-packed month of design thinking this Winter Term

Exciting things are happening in the Center for Design Thinking this January with 15 students learning to harness the power of design thinking to support four diverse client projects.

Students enrolled in the Pathways to Design Thinking community-engaged course are advancing their ability to facilitate client projects committed to increasing equity, inclusion and connection through design thinking methods. In addition to supporting community and client goals, students also get the chance to work on personal projects.

Course clients this semester include Safer City Greensboro, Elon’s Student Government Association, First Generation Student Support Services, and representatives from the HealthEU Council on Wellness and Well-Being.

In just three weeks, students conduct research to support client goals and implement design thinking methods to move their projects forward. For instance, one student team is working with Safer City Greensboro to support its commitment to inclusive community engagement. Another team is supporting Elon’s Student Government Association by building its capacity to implement equity-centered design thinking practices into its outreach processes.

Each team has the guidance of a Design Thinking mentor, student “DT Catalysts,” who helps guide design thinking conversations and provide insight for their teams.

“It’s really fun to see the students develop their problem-solving skills and help our client address a real-world problem,” said team mentor Aaron Chan. “We got to work with the Center for Access and Success on designing ways to improve the first-generation student experience here at Elon. I love that our work is making lives better in very tangible ways.” Students are learning how to support each other, collaborate and ask challenging questions.

Person with glasses smiling.
Aaron Chan ’26, Design Thinking team mentor

Clients appreciate the time and effort student teams put into the development of these workshops. Travella Free, executive director of the Center for Access and Success, said “It was an amazing experience and much-needed opportunity to connect with our first-generation students here at Elon. First Generation Support Services is in a much better position now to break down the barriers and challenges they face as college students so we can build a better first-gen experience here at Elon.”

Graduate apprentice Darynha Gnep added that they “want students to feel celebrated, seen and heard, and this workshop was a great step toward achieving those goals. I loved the space that was created for us to connect, laugh and dream.”

Beyond client projects, students are also excited to use design thinking practices to support their personal projects. “Design Thinking has helped me increase my sense of play and my ability to stress less,” Abi Coburn ’26 said.

Coburn’s ultimate goal is to use design thinking to incorporate more play into her life. These projects can have a lasting impact.

Kendall Gilbert ’22 said the course, “Taught me how to incorporate design thinking into every aspect of my life. To this day, I am still using design thinking in order to develop actionable strategies for reaching my goals.”

Students receive transcript credit and a LinkedIn badge with successful completion of this class.

To learn more about center offerings this winter and spring or request a consultation, check out the Center’s website.