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From left, Zachary Feury ’17 and Jake Eberwein traveled to Phoenix, Ariz., to speak at the American Association of Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) conference on Design Thinking for Student Learning.

MCLA Shares Design Thinking Practices at National Conference


Just last spring, Zachary Feury ’16 was a student enrolled in an MCLA course that focused on integrating design thinking. Now the project facilitator for the Feigenbaum MCLA Leads Initiative, he recently joined Dr. Jake Eberwein, dean of Graduate and Continuing Education, to speak about design thinking at a conference attended by 750 educators and professionals from colleges and universities from across the United States.

“Design thinking requires a student to apply everything they’ve learned across the disciplines for a liberal arts education, into a project that is tangible,” Feury said.

At the 2017 General Education and Assessment: Design Thinking for Student Learning, held by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in Phoenix, Ariz., Eberwein and Feury shared how MCLA encourages students to innovate, lead, collaborate and solve problems through the practice of design thinking.

As part of their facilitated discussion, “Collective Creativity: Using Design Thinking to Engage a Campus Community,” Eberwein and Feury asked for input from those in attendance.

“Some of the things we are doing are really interesting and innovative, but we continue to look outside the campus to see what other folks are doing and certainly learn from other campuses,” Eberwein said. “What’s different at MCLA is we seem to have a level of broad integration across the campus.”

Design thinking courses at MCLA benefit students by providing opportunities to advance original ideas into solutions to problems that affect people on campus, as well as others in the greater community. Students present their proposals not only to their peers, but also to members of the faculty and staff, campus administrators and community leaders.

MCLA offers courses across the disciplines that integrate design thinking and community engagement, and allow students to engage in community-based problem solving using design thinking methodology.

As a result of their “Community Engagement in the Arts” course last fall, Rebecca Waterhouse ’17 and Nicole Hall ’18 are working on a mobile phone application that combines augmented reality with the natural environment. Their effort is part of MCLA’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Challenge.

Waterhouse and Hall aim to encourage people to get out and enjoy nature, and to support area artists with work as they create images for the project. The app is similar to the Pokemon Go game in that the user uses their phone as if they are looking through a camera.

“You see the world as it is, but then locations are geo-cached, and something that isn’t real pops up on your phone,” Feury explained.  “The point is to collect virtual sculptures created by local artists, to get people to engage with nature.”

This semester, students began taking design thinking classes at MCLA’s new Design Lab at 49 Main St. in North Adams, which serves the College and the community as a multi-use venue and innovation space.

Design thinking can play a powerful role in supporting a liberal arts education, Eberwein said:

“Students think deeply and critically about issues and ideas that arise from a broad base of content and disciplinary knowledge, and interact with peers to collaborate and solve problems as they seek to make a positive change within their community.”