“It’s a metaphor!” I declared to the participants of my design thinking workshop. The gears start turning in their heads. I breathlessly watch them sketch out their visions before me, resurrecting houses from an assortment of recycled materials and scribbling thoughts and feelings in their handbooks. Floating around the room, I listen in on each group’s discussions, dropping comments, and posing additional questions where needed.
This January, I took great pride in being selected and invited to present this design thinking workshop at the Leadership and Professional Development Summit hosted by the Union of Vietnamese Student Association Gulf Coast (UVSA-GC). UVSA-GC’s Summit gathers and unites young adults from Vietnamese-American communities across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and other surrounding states. The purpose of Summit is to equip and empower young people with tools to grow as leaders and professionals.
This year, the theme for Summit was “Identity.” As a Vietnamese-American woman who grew up in the American south, I am the product of the fusing and layering of multiple cultures. The different identities that we hold shape us into who we are in different ways.
At the Summit, I chose to share the language of Design Thinking with a group I care for deeply. I presented my workshop to roughly 40 participants. In the workshop, participants designed, built, and dissected a house as a symbol of our identities. The core components of a house are its: foundation, walls, windows, roof, and door. The functionality of these parts directly connects to the pieces that make us who we are.
- The foundation is their background and values, things that anchor and ground us.
- The walls can be support systems or barriers: things and people that provide structure and support in our lives.
- Every window serves as a reminder of perspective, allowing us to see the world through different lenses.
- The roof is our defense mechanism, designed to protect us.
- Finally, our door gives us the agency and autonomy to determine who we allow into our lives, how we allow our past to affect us, and where we allow ourselves to go in the future.
I wanted this workshop to support participants in embracing all the identities that they may hold and recognizing that there is room to grow and change both inside and outside of those spaces. In the future, I plan to continue using design thinking to encourage my community members to see the human experience as infinite.
Written by: Tran Nguyen-Phuong, ‘22
Tulane Undergraduate student and Taylor Design Thinking Student Fellow