Beyond Students: The Powerful Role of Mentors and Partners
Understanding how to support and work with hundreds of college students — even some of the most passionate — is not easy for everyone. Each year, Design for America leverages the expertise, insight, and experience of countless community partners and more than one hundred faculty mentors and industry professionals. They volunteer their time to help DFA students set high goals and meet them because the implications are clear: to teach a student to implement is to have real impact. In return, these students bring faculty outside ivory towers and provide fresh perspective on design pedagogy.
Mentors and community partners enrich projects with direct support from DFA’s core national team. Mentors connect to each other just like their students do, meeting for virtual hangouts, sharing resources, and providing feedback on programs which deepens the DFA Network and expands its influential reach. DFA’s online process guide and design workshops for mentors supplement ongoing studio goals, many of which were crafted in collaboration with the mentors.
Community and corporate partners see DFA projects living throughout the world as proof that the DFA process works and can work in their own institutions, too. Faculty apply the process to launching innovation ecosystems on campus. For example, Katherine Tucker, in partnership with other faculty at Portland State University, used DFA’s process guide and learning materials to improve design classes and launch a new design course for its MBA program. DFA WashU is seen as the perfect ‘next step’ for freshman students who are introduced to design thinking in the Designing Creativity: Innovation Across Disciplines course. The degree to which DFA is acting and amplifying on campuses can be measured in faculty experiences just as much as their students.