Wow, what an amazing weekend we had! 21 students from 8 different universities flew in Thursday night from as far as Sao Paulo, Brazil. Despite geographic differences it was clear that each one of these students has something in common that would soon bond them all- an unwavering commitment to use design for social innovation. Although everyone came in with varying degrees of experience in design and student leadership, they all left with a bold confidence and eagerness to get their studios kicked-off for the fast approaching fall!. Check out some of the lessons they learned in the video below and the pictures from the weekend!

A Summary of the DFA Leadership Studio


The studio started out with a skype introduction into the history of DFA from faculty founder Liz-Gerber and quickly teams dove deeply into a one day design challenge on issues facing children with asthma. We had two families come in throughout the day along with a senior citizen diagnosed with asthma who turned this challenge into an entrepreneurial opportunity to design her own better solutions. Here, the students learned that one must often revisit the process, know what problem they are trying to solve for, and always always, take it back to the user. It was a great immersion into what and how to use the design process.

Saturday, DFA VALUES

On Saturday, we had the pleasure of having Beth Black, an MSLOC student, work with the groups to discuss the values of DFA and what it means to be a DFA member by reflecting on our own past experiences in other groups and organizations and what it means to be a team leader. In the afternoon, we had Byron Stewart come in and through a variety of hands-on exercises discuss the nuances of what it means to work with and for communities from a variety of diverse backgrounds and how we must embody this diversity in order to have the greatest success. The day topped off with a visit from Bruce Mau who left the students inspired by examples from his own work and ended the day by shouting our own 4 minute manifestos.

Sunday OUR DFA

Sunday is when we rolled up our sleeves and started preparing for everyone’s own studios. Students learned about the project scoping process, the development of a team member to a team captain, to task-force to leaders, setting up your own timeline etc. The students worked until about 3:30am preparing presentations for their own kick-off studios to be presented to the group in the morning. We were inspired by how articulate, thoughtful, and how different each one of these presentations was in order to truly reflect the different campus cultures of each one of our schools.


These presentations were practiced, recorded and reviewed by us all. With each new presentation, leaders learned something new about how they could present their own kick-off session and promised to share their presentations with each other, share graphics, share stories and build this movement together.

As we all signed each others posters as if taking off for the summer break signing year books, students hugged, took one last dip in the lake, shared taxi’s to the airport and have already started to kick thing into high gear to launch their new studios! Stay tuned for more updates as the first kick-off will be from Cornell in just a few weeks!

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