BYU business students complete Stanford design course with program to help freshmen

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Dallas Anderson, Gabe Walker, Dean Brigitte C. Madrian, Ashley Paget and Rachel Merrill pose after being pinned for their completion of the Stanford d.school course on Jan. 17. (Hannah Miner)

Four business students became the first BYU students to be named University Innovation Fellows on Jan. 17 after completing a course from Stanford’s d.school.

Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, known as the d.school, created the University Innovation Fellows (UIF) course to “empower students around the world to become agents of change in higher education.”

The Marriott School of Business held the rigorous six-week UIF course in Fall 2018 and only hosted four students. The course challenges students to use what they know about experiential learning and invites students to become impact leaders, or trained helpers, on their campus, according to the UIF website.

Experiential learning is using the understanding of oneself to propel them forward in their own life. A student is an experiential learner if they know what they are good at and actively pursue those things, according to the UIF website.

“Experiential learning creates a space to have a conversation about student individuality and their voices in that,” said UIF program champion Mat Deurden.

Experience and Design Management students Rachel Merrill, Dallas Anderson, Ashley Paget and Gabe Walker all applied to the UIF program after Deurden sent out an email about the opportunity.

Duerden, who has been working with design thinking principles for over four years, initially heard about the UIF course through connections at UVU.

Dean Brigitte C. Madrian pins Gabe Walker as a University Innovation Fellow on Jan. 17. (Hannah Miner)

“I met Cynthia Wong at UVU through a Ph.D. committee, and she told me about the UIF program and the cohorts they currently have at UVU,” Duerden said. “Shortly after hearing about it, I reached out to the d.school, and they’ve been great since then.”

Duerden believes that the UIF program is an “enabling process to come up with design thinking solutions.”

“We used our own creativity and individuality, paired with social impact principles and design thinking outlooks, to create a better suited design plan for students around campus,” Paget said.

Merrill, Anderson, Paget and Walker decided to help BYU freshmen understand how to better design their personal college career by creating the Design Your Y program.

“Our campus has so many resources, but the freshmen have no idea how to use them,” Paget said. “With the new program that we created, we will be helping them understand experiential learning, innovation principles for life, holding a seminar course and help them overall find purpose during their university experience.”

In addition, the UIF students are hoping to make design thinking and experiential learning a required general education course for students, according to Merrill.

The UIF students have been working closely with Patty Freeman, the dean of general education at BYU, to create a general education course that better helps freshman to discover the overall purpose of higher education and their individual roles in college.

Dean Brigitte C. Madrian congratulates students at University Innovation Fellows Pinning Ceremony on Jan. 17. (Hannah Miner)

“This (experiential learning) should be what college is about,” Paget said. “College is not about box checking, which is how a lot of people view it. It should be about learning to be a better human being and using that knowledge to create a meaningful life.”

Throughout the program, the cohort met with stakeholders from BYU on a nearly weekly basis, and at the end of their program, “presented their final pitch to a panel of decision makers on campus,” according to Paget.

Merrill feels that the “knowledge they have gained as leaders on campus is essential to share with others.”

“The course that we created will play a huge role in helping freshmen and changing how people experience college,” Merrill said. “Freshmen need to be having a fulfilling beginning experience at BYU.”

The students hope the program will help all future BYU students that will join the university in years to come, according to Merrill.

“Eventually, the program will help students go through a systematic process that helps them explore — and be exposed — to the full spectrum of what the BYU experience could be and chart a more intentional process for those students,” Duerden said.

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