This fall, DFA students self-organized a weekend to bring together DFAers from  East Coast DFA schools. With over 30  in attendance and some driving as far as 10 hours, students came together to share their passion for using design to create local and social impact. Here- some of the organizers, Ellen Su- DFA Yale and Giselle Malina- DFA Cornell, share tale of the experience. 

The East coast meet up came directly out of the Leadership Studio over the summer; we all had such a good time there and thought that only seeing each other once a year was not enough at all! The sheer energy and enthusiasm was incredibly infectious, and we realized that we wanted to share this kind of communication and connectedness with the rest of our studios as well.

We began by gathering all the east coast studio leaders for dinner during the leadership studio. While we ate and joked and talked, we began to throw out ideas and the meetup began to take shape. We compiled a google doc of all the ideas thrown around, and started adding ideas. Through the semester, we had 3 video chats with as many studio leaders as we could gather to begin to handle logistics. At the first chat, we picked a date and place (the weekend of 11/3, at Yale). The second, we began putting together and agenda and delegating tasks, and the third chat was a finalization of the plan.
During the meetup, we started off with dinner, ice breakers, and prototyping games for the first night. The next morning, we all met and had a Project open house, where each project team set up a whiteboard with a summary of their projects and were able to talk with people from other schools about their projects. The afternoon was spent discussing DFA as an organization, and we were able to air a lot of concerns and insights about the DFA network itself. It was fascinating hearing about all the different DFA studios, and the similarities and differences between schools. We also had a party that evening, and then a recap and pinata smashing (that we had made the first night) the next morning.

We learned a lot about how different studios operate, as well as a lot about the structure of DFA national. There were a lot of good insights about our projects that came from other studios, and hearing about other schools’ problems and projects taught us a lot about our own projects as well. The meet up itself brought up alot of questions and soul searching for each studio while also allowing each to see how every other studio was coping with various or similar challenges.  The entire weekend brought home the fact that DFA draws in so many interesting and passionate people, and it was a great reminder that these kinds of people can be found anywhere. The DFA network is a great way to bring together these people to share their passion and energy to make change in the world.

We had our share of issues with organisation and last minute planning, but I’m sure subsequent meetups will get better and better. The fact that we were able to bring together so many people is amazing, and it’s a great way to get people re-energized about DFA and design in general. Beyond that it also allowed all DFAers, not just those at Leadership Studio, to get a say in the national DFA. We would definitely do it again in a heartbeat.