As we approach a new year and start the search for our fifth year of DFA Fellows, we wanted to take a moment and have a look at where our past Fellows are now.


2011 Fellows Mert Iseri & Yuri Malina: SwipeSense

Recently recognized among Forbes’ Top 30 Under 30, check out what Mert and Yuri have been up to!

What are you Up to Now?

We are the Co-founders of SwipeSense, a medical device company that spun out of our fellowship at DFA. We have grown to a team of 12, working towards solving one of the greatest challenges in healthcare, hospital acquired infections.

 The DFA fellowship helped us  by giving us space, time and money to grow, raised our profile as young entrepreneurs and mentoring distributed talent helped us learn the best practices in communication and accountability.

What advice would you give to DFAers for post-college life?
Solve a BIG problem. Make no small plans. Surround yourself with people you respect and people who help you grow. Don’t work at a job you hate just for the money. It’s not worth it. Think back to who you were when you first started college, hold on to that curiosity. Cook food at home at least 4 times a week, you won’t need to go to the gym as much. Sell your TV on Craigslist and buy as many books as you can. Simplify your closet, you will save time in the mornings and it’s never too early to start building a personal brand. Finally, remember that the best DFA project you ever worked on is your own life. Keep asking the better questions, don’t be afraid to fail and build something that will truly change the world.

Kayla_headshot2012 Fellow, Kayla Matheus: 30 Weeks @ Google

What are you Up to Now?
After being a fellow for DFA, I did a bit of freelancing for a design consultancy in Boston, then headed back to the Midwest to work as a product designer at SC Johnson. Soon after, I was accepted into the inaugural year of a new incubator from Google called 30 Weeks, and that’s where I am now. 30 Weeks is a 7-month program specifically for designers of all backgrounds to start companies, and it has been absolutely amazing. I am essentially putting the DFA design process into practice every single day.
Being a DFA fellow has been fundamental in not only my understanding of the design process, but in teaching it to others. In fact, I actually met my SCJ manager at the IDSA conference that I was at through DFA! Beyond process theory, helping to steer the direction of DFA gave me exposure to what it takes to run a small start-up-like entity, and all the complex pieces of the machine.
What advice would you give to DFAers for post-college life?
For DFAers who are graduating or experiencing post-college life, my advice is to diversify, follow random opportunities, and make a name for yourself. Gaining experience through moving to new cities and having a different job every year (or less!) has helped me figure out what I want in a career in a very short amount of time.

Thea2012 Fellow: Thea Klein-Mayer: Agriculture Fellow

I just completed my first year of a fellowship centered on sustainable agriculture in the mountains of Virginia. Together with eight other fellows, I lived on a farm where I learned how to grow and preserve food, keep bees, and advocate for a healthier, more equatable food system.

Now, in the second year of the Fellowship, I will be working in town as the Local Food Coordinator—supporting initiatives that highlight local producers (like the Farmers’ Market, Faces of Farmers Project, and local food events) as well as garden-based education work in the county school system. I was drawn to this program because its focus on food—such a fundamental component of all of our lives—and because, for me, farming brings together ecology, design, and poetry. The program is also deeply devoted to learning by doing and benefiting communities—two tenets I so appreciated in DFA.

dan2012 Fellow: Daniel Rees Lewis: Delta Lab PhD

What are you Up to Now?

I’m currently a Learning Sciences PhD student at Northwestern at the Delta Lab. I build and study technology that helps budding civic innovators solve society’s most pressing problems. My main project is the Loft, an online learning platform designed to support innovation networks. To support the development Loft and other learning technology  I have also co-founded an educational tech startup called ForgeWork ( I’m very lucky that I still work with DFAers everyday — smart, dedicated people who want to make a difference.
The Design for America Fellowship informed everything I am working on now. I practiced human-centered design techniques for education, and developed my understanding of agile methodologies for developing educational technology.
What advice would you give to DFAers for post-college life
When making decisions about how you want to spend your post-college life imagine what you want your day-to-day life to look like, and then work backwards from there. Put yourself in as many real situations to test what really excites and sustains you. Also – get really good an noticing and valuing the expertise of others.

Headshots12013 Fellow, Giselle Malina: Fulbright Design Assistant, Taiwan

I just finished working as a special assistant to the Fulbright Specialist Design and Innovation program in Taiwan whose mission was to help bridge the innovation gap between that country and ours. Over the last month I ran lectures and workshops on the Human-Centered Design process for graduate and undergraduate students in universities in Taipei, as well as professionals and local manufacturers. Working with the American Innovation Center was an amazing experience, I would never have imagined that I’d be thought of as an expert in design and innovation, and it’s the DFA fellowship that has enabled me to be seen as one.

My time as a Design for America Fellow was essential to my job in Taiwan. Without the knowhow I developed as a DFA fellow in running workshops, conferences and teaching HCD to a large audience, I could not have succeeded. The fellowship played a huge part in my post-college transition and really showed me that I could do anything I set my mind to. 
Interested in becoming a Fellow for 2015-2016? Check out the opportunity here