Beyond Students: The Role of Mentors and Partners

  • 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.
  • “One student connected me to another woman doing social design in her home school. 
    I loved that the learning and networking went both ways.” 
    — Dawna Leggett, Senior Social Researcher, Design Impact, Mentor

    “I shared and received ideas with my counterparts at other universities, and took home strategies for how to mentor DFA members at WashU. My connection with DFA is an integral tool to giving students tools to tackle some of the worlds’ biggest issues.”
    — Rob Morgan, Senior Lecturer-Scenic Design, Washington University in St. Louis, Mentor

    “We were fortunate to work with DFA for the first time in 2017. I was extremely impressed by not only the quality of the work presented, but by the students’ passion, commitment 
    and the community they created.”
    — Barry Telford, President Sodexo Canada and CEO, Universities North America - West, Sponsor

    “Interacting with DFA helps organizations rethink their own processes, with the hope of a 
    well-informed community-focused approach. They can change the way they do things, 
    question core assumptions, and rethink their organisations for the better.”
    — Matthew Wettergreen, Lecturer, Rice University, Mentor

    “We have a critical need to build a broader support base for RootDown LA. The DFA USC team has truly blown us away with their capacity to quickly present their insights and understanding. 
    This relationship lays an important foundation for more collaboration.”
    — Megan Hanson, Co-founder & Executive Director, RootDown LA, Partner