On Saturday, January 25 , Taylor’s Warehouse District location was buzzing with activity: “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys was blaring in the background and students belted out the lyrics, fully immersed in their design work. Most importantly, students were being introduced to design thinking mindsets and attitudes that could support them in their other work: openness, collaboration, flexibility, and creative problem-solving.
This was the “Design My XU Honors Retreat” – a design thinking workshop put together for 13 students from Xavier University of Louisiana’s Exponential Honors Program, co-facilitated by Taylor’s Dr. Lesley-Ann Noel and Xavier’s Dr. Ja’Wanda S. Grant and Henrietta Denise Ssettimba.
About the Facilitators
Dr. Noel is Taylor’s Associate Director for Design Thinking for Social Impact and a Professor of Practice, instructing the experience-based undergraduate course “Design Thinking for Collective Impact.”
Dr. Grant currently serves as Founding Director of Xavier Exponential, as well as Special Assistant to the Provost for Scholar Development and Institutional Alliances. In these roles, she supports institutional pipeline programs and coordinates advising for nationally competitive scholarships and awards.
Henrietta Denise Ssettimba is a Junior at Xavier from Tulsa, Oklahoma studying Sociology. She serves as the Design Thinking Fellow for Xavier Exponential, originally having gotten involved with design thinking in high school through a social philanthropy program.
Design Thinking Activities
Under the guidance of Dr. Noel, Dr. Grant, and Denise, thirteen Xavier students worked together to generate solutions to the question of “How might we improve communication at Xavier University?” After an ideation session – which included brainstorming a wide range of solutions from products, to services, to policy – students selected three solutions to prototype. Students then performed skits in which they “marketed” their designs to the group as a whole.
Prototypes included: a unified app to centralize communication between student groups, professors, and administration, a web portal to ease communication for students in need of health and/or disability services, and a tutoring center to support student study routines.
Students reflected on the design workshop, leaving feedback such as:
- “I like the creativity and depth of thought involved in design thinking”
- “I wish more of my krewe members came to experience this”
- “The best part of this day was taking everything we learned and applying it to an actual product.”
“After the workshop, students expressed joy,” Dr. Noel noted. “They gained a positive experience to replace any negative connotations that had around design thinking.”
Looking to the Future
While the brilliant prototypes of the students served to drive home the importance of administrations taking into account students’ ideas, the success of the “Design My XU Honors Retreat” also shows how important it is to provide the spaces and resources needed to support creative problem-solving and design thinking in higher education.
The Taylor Center team looks forward to collaborating with Xavier again in the future. We are excited to continue to use our downtown location to engage students in design thinking and human-centered design processes.