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To show support and gratitude for health care workers, first responders, and other essential workers keeping communities safe during the COVID-19 emergency. Old Dominion University is illuminating its Education Building blue during May, as part of the national #LightItBlue campaign. Photo Chuck Thomas/ODU

Newly Created Design Thinking Cohort Assembled for Inspiration and Ideation


When Dr. Karen Sanzo and Dr. Jay Scribner, professors in the Department of Educational Foundations and Leadership in the Darden College of Education, sent a faculty-wide email last August soliciting participants for their Design Thinking professional development initiative, they were unsure if anyone would want to participate. Instead, they received an overwhelming response from 25 interested groups. The groups were later narrowed down through an application process to the nine groups currently taking part in the Design Thinking cohort.

Sanzo describes Design Thinking as a collaborative, creative, iterative, and human-centered process used to understand what customers need through observation, brainstorming, prototyping, storytelling and more.

"The purpose of this cohort-based initiative is to come together collaboratively to do what's best for our campus and collectively improve Old Dominion University," said Sanzo.

Tasked with creating and defining a prototype initiative, the Design Thinking Cohort presented their ideas - for the first time ever - during the Prototype Pitch Event, held in December 2017, at the Strome Entrepreneurial Center. Ideas were presented in seven minutes or less and included initiatives such as an innovative teacher preparation pathway, a digital trading game to teach financial literacy and a student run venue supporting collaboration between campus arts groups.

"Participating in the Design Thinking cohort has been challenging" said Julie Ramsey, program coordinator and student advisor for MonarchTeach. "We began the process with ideas about solutions to our problems that were really only 'band aids'. Through the process we researched and looked deeper into the problems and found solutions that really focus on the bigger picture.

The nine teams began their journey at a two-day institute in September during which they developed a professional learning community, refined their challenging problem of practice, learned about the design thinking framework and developed a research plan.

"Participating in the design thinking cohort gave us the opportunity to talk with a variety of people representing different programs across the campus" said Dr. Elizabeth Burns, assistant professor of STEM Education and Professional Studies. "These connections and the feedback we received were beneficial as we consider ways to engage more stakeholders in expanding the library program."

Of the nine groups, three were comprised of faculty from the Darden College of Education representing the Instructional Design and Technology program, MonarchTeach, and the Library Science program. Other participants represented departments across the university, including the ODU Libraries, the Center for High Impact Practices, ODU Tri-Cities & ODU Peninsula, the Center for Faculty Development, the Finance Department in the Strome College of Business, and the English and Theater Departments in the College of Arts and Letters.

Several campus leaders were involved in the event, including Provost Austin Agho, Executive Director of the Strome Entrepreneurial Center Nancy Grden, Executive Director of the Center for Enterprise Innovation Martin Kaszubowski and Lee Entsminger '74, founder of the Entsminger Fellows. These individuals provided feedback to the participants which will assist in the progression of the prototypes as the initiatives to continue to evolve throughout 2018.

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