Since 2016, the Phyllis M. Taylor Center at Tulane University has been at the forefront of universities teaching life design education. Our courses reach over 350 Tulane students per year, and more than 150 other universities have accessed our open-source curriculum to teach life design on their campuses. The COVID-19 pandemic and Summer 2020 protests for racial justice inspired a year of inquiry and deep reflective work.
How might we design a life design curriculum that is more equitable and inclusive, builds community across difference, and meets the needs of online learners?
While our work will continue to evolve every semester in response to student and instructor feedback, we are now excited to release a new life design curriculum that seeks to answer many of these questions. We made these materials open source to support all educators interested in teaching changemaking life design.
Curriculum Redesign Process
In July 2020, Julia Lang, Professor of Practice and Associate Director of Career Education & Life Design from Tulane University, and Kathy Davies, Managing Director and Life Design Studio Lead from the Stanford Life Design Lab formed an Equity and Inclusion Life Design Working Group. Comprised of life design practitioners from 20+ universities worldwide, the group works to improve course materials for students and educators with intersecting identities related to race, gender, social class, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, immigration status, age, abilities, and more.
Alongside that work, a generous gift from the Martini Education and Opportunity Trust funded the creation of new course content. Taylor Your Life instructors Abigail Lukens, Cornell Sneed, Jada Buckner, Kayla Smith, Sonia Williams- Aghimien, Tiye Jones, and Wendy LeBlanc examined the Taylor Your Life curriculum and developed content for new class sections designed for:
- First-generation college students
- Exploratory students
- First-year student-athletes (Taylor Your Tulane course for first-year students)
Professor Lang and Graduate Assistant Kaitlyn Root combined ideas from the Taylor Your Life Instructors’ Working Group with the three new sections to rewrite Tulane’s core life design curriculum. Starting in Summer 2021, Tulane instructors will only use the updated Instructor Guides and PowerPoints, and the materials are available to instructors worldwide.
What’s New: Identity Development
At the Taylor Center, our approach to life design has focused on changemaking, the belief that individuals in any position can work toward positive social change. The past year inspired us to add a core component to our career education work: changemaker development requires identity development. Part of changemaker development is helping students recognize how their intersecting identities come into play when tackling social or environmental issues with communities who share similar or different identities.
In our curriculum, we recognize that powerful systems of oppression limit upward mobility for some while maintaining wealth, power, and resources for others. Our courses do not ignore or minimize this reality but highlight existing barriers and equip students with tools and resources to design their way forward.
Changes to the core Taylor Your Life Curriculum
- New Core Curriculum: We removed the central textbook, Designing Your Life(Burnett & Evans, 2016), to expose students to many voices and perspectives that represent different world views. Click here for a list of all the activities, readings, podcasts, and videos that are integrated throughout the course.
- Identity development is threaded throughout the course in many different modules via in-class activities, articles, and discussion board reflections.
- A deeper and broader introduction to systems of oppression in the working world: We have added material to deepen students’ awareness of systems of oppression and provide concrete tools to move through barriers to designing the life they want.
- A new class on Personal Finance (Class 6).Our new curriculum acknowledges thatmany of us are not taught the basics of budgeting and investing and aims to provide entry to this core life skill. As such, we added an entire class on these life skills, which we see as crucial in life design.
- Imposter Syndrome and Resume Storytelling (Class 9) Research shows that imposter syndrome is particularly prevalent in BIPOC and first generation college students. In addition to readings, students anonymously post about their experiences with imposter syndrome and learn concrete tips and tools to speak confidently about their experiences using the PAR method and authentic introduction.
- More options for Instructor Choice to meet current student needs (Class 12).In response to the COVID-19 crisis and student input over the past few years, we have added more options and resources for the instructor to teach a class based on student needs and desires, including, but not limited to: building an online portfolio, job/internship searching during COVID-19, and preparing for interviews
- A redesigned Canvas Course Shell: We infused best practices in online teaching pedagogy to redesign our Canvas course. These made for an engaging learning experience for all students via robust discussion board threads and more precise navigation throughout the Canvas course. We have a new library of templates to facilitate activities online.
To learn more, read the full recap of all curriculum changes with descriptions and references.
We recognize that this work is never done, and our course will continue to evolve to better meet the needs and honor the lived experience of all students. We began to prototype our new curriculum in Spring 2021 and will be incorporating the new curriculum into all Taylor Your Life courses moving forward.
If you are an educator and use our resources or have ideas or suggestions to enhance the course and infuse other activities, readings, or other resources to make our work more inclusive to all students, please fill out this feedback form or reach out to Associate Director of Career Education and Life Design, Julia Lang, at email@example.com
To access teaching materials and resources for all classes and the Canvas course shell:
- If you have used our materials before, complete this brief survey
- If you are new to our materials, fill out this brief form
More About Life Design
- Learn more about life design education at Tulane.
- Read our 10 Frameworks of Life Design
- View a recording of Professor Lang speaking on a panel at the Harvard China Education Symposium about identity development and career education and sharing some of the activities referenced above.
Julia Lang is the Associate Director for Career Education and Life Design and a Professor of Practice at the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking at Tulane University. She is also a trainer/coach at the Stanford University Life Design Studio and Higher Education consultant. Lang created the “Taylor Your Life” design thinking changemaking career development lab, which over 150 educators use worldwide. In her role at Tulane, Lang creates design thinking and life design curricula to support undergraduate and graduate students in creating changemaking professional pathways, trains and supervises instructors to teach courses, and facilitates design thinking workshops for university and community partners.