DFA wanted to take a moment to recognize some of the wonderful people and projects that make DFA happen this year. To do so, we asked the community who we should highlight! Check out the award categories here and those recognized below!


Graduating Seniors:

  • Bailie Davis– Case Western | CIA– Baillie described in three words would be wise, dedicated, and sincere. Without Baillie the studio would not have the great culture, connections, and members it has today. 
  • Hunter Roux– Duke University– Hunter not only championed the creation of the Duke DFA Studio, but served as its studio lead for the entirety of his last year on Duke’s campus amidst his graduation school coursework, rigorous atheletic training schedule and other commitments. 
  • Sanny Lin– UIUC- Sanny was a founding member of the DFA UIUC chapter and has been a critical contributor to its growth over the last 3 years. As a double major, Sanny uses her experience and knowledge to guide DFAers through the HCD process.
  • Lulu Mickelson– Barnard | Columbia – Lulu is the founder of our studio who transformed it into the organization we are today. Her positivity and leadership is infectious beyond compare. She truly lives her life as a social entrepreneur.

Outstanding Alumni: 

  • Hanui (Amy) Choi– UC Berkeley– Amy has been an amazing asset to the DFA this year. She played a huge part in the development and success of the Creators Exchange, the alumni network, and has spent hours mentoring the UC Berkeley DFA studio. 

Outstanding Studio Leads: 

  • Zonghe Chua– UIUC– Zong is a driving force behind the Illinois DFA studio, going above and beyond by being actively involved. Zong leads with an open mind and ready to try new studio initiatives and structures.
  • Jenna Leonardo– Stanford– Jenna is always eager to help, eager to connect and all around, a great person who has guided our team into thinking about questions and perspectives that we hadn’t thought of before.
  • Andrew Demas– Barnard | Columbia– Andrew goes above and beyond every minute of everyday. He turns important board meetings into warm “family” dinners in his home with self-prepared food. He never loses ambition, positivity, or creativity. 
  • Michelle Pannone– Virginia Tech-Michelle has used her knowledge to gain strong community partners and expand our DFA into the Center of the Arts. She has exemplified the type of leadership that drives DFA.
  • Rob Linkens– Cornell– Rob spear headed the design workshops on Cornell campus and I believe his ability to get students excited and easily convey the design process is why Cornell’s retention rate was higher than ever this year. 

Outstanding Team Leaders: 

  • Ben Green Yale-Ben formed a coalition with a local Arts Workshop and the New Haven Department of Transportation to build artistic bike racks to put around the city. He had the drive to continue to create a socially meaningful project.
  • Rachel Chung– Stanford– Despite being abroad, Rachel met with the team over Skype three times a week to help them keep the big picture in mind as they moved forward to meet their goals.

Outstanding DFA Members:  

  • Rob Carrier– Case Western|CIA– Rob has really helped to make DFA grow at CWRU over the past year. As a studio member he went above and beyond by recruiting a majority of the new members and believes in the vision of DFA. 
  • Nina Ligon– Stanford– When the team strays off track, Nina focuses the conversation and reminds the team to think about the core purpose of the product and what we are trying to accomplish. She has really been a pleasure to have on the team.
  • Nathan Kondamuri– Stanford– Nathan is always smiling–ready to work, positive, funny, and sometimes funny to laugh at :). He is eager to help with small or larger tasks.

Outstanding Mentors:

  • Phyllis Newbill– Virginia Tech– Phyllis has been an champion for the DFA Studio. Phyllis worked on getting DFA studio access, attended leadership meetings, and has been an integral part in helping the studio consider its larger role in the university ecosystem.
  • Erin Liman– Stanford– Erin is a great anchor to the DFA studio. She hosts new events bringing in professionals to help the teams and is there to support the studio every step of the way. 
  • Joe Zinter– Yale– Joe is dedicated to teaching and supporting students rather than telling them what to do. I think in many ways he exemplifies an ideal DFA mentor.


 Inspiring Future: 

  • gURLS– Vanderbilt–  Through a Nashville mentorship program and corresponding website, this team is already making an impact in getting girls to code through a recent hackathon and upcoming partnerships.
  • Empathy Box– RISD|Brown– This team worked with a high school in LA and the girl scouts of Rhode Island to use the empathy box as a design thinking exercise to teach children and young adults both the power of design thinking and the affects of autism for families and individuals.
  • Luna Lights– Northwestern– From finding summer support to help pay for their summer working time over the summer, to creating their own independent studies, the Luna Lights Team shows what a DFA team can do if they find a passion and stick with it.
  • Illumiloon– Yale– This natural disaster team created outstanding & implementable visuals for their project.  They got the office, their mentors, and their studio excited about their potential.

Outstanding Grit:

  • MetaED Yale-Throughout many hurdles this team managed to stay positive and go to visit their partner school month after month – most teams I have seen would have stopped after the first road block- let alone the 4th.

Outstanding HCD: 

  • Orenda-Stanford- This team talked to parents of children with autism time and time again, learned about the difficulties of finding appropriate resources for children with autism. It was this insight that drove their solution.