One of the most important parts of learning the design process is creating a culture of feedback. Students in Design for America are guided by some truly wonderful mentors, both at their universities and from other organizations. This year we saw more students engaging local mentors more than ever before to learn human-centered design, learn how to give and take critique, and create local impact in their community! Here are 3 stories of great mentorship from DFA Barnard|Columbia, DFA Rice, and DFA UC Berkeley.

DFA Barnard|Columbia connected with local design masters students from the School of Visual Arts Design for Social Innovation Masters Program to give their teams coaching and feedback. The SVA DSI’s program of creating social impact through design is well aligned with DFA’s mission and could be a great step for graduating DFAers.

They kicked off the partnership with a visit to the SVA studio. DFA students presented the big questions they were tackling, including “How can we improve the learning environment for middle schools in an urban school setting?” and “How can we make it easier for parents going to school to get their work done at home?”

SVA students also visited Barnard|Columbia and gave a talk based on their experience in UX design and working at organizations including UNICEF and Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital. At the end of the semester, they back came together for DFA Barnard|Columbia’s mid-year review, where they shared their expertise on the design process by giving teams feedback. Both DFA and SVA students are excited about continuing this excellent partnership to further support both programs!

DFA Barnard|Columbia students visiting the School of Visual Arts


This summer, DFA Rice’s faculty advisor Dr. Matthew Wettergreen joined his students at Leadership Studio, DFA’s annual student conference based in Northwestern University. Dr. Wettergreen is an Engineering Lecturer at Rice University, where he leads an innovative course guiding students through the engineering design process for the first time.

At Leadership Studio, they powered through the design challenge of enhancing the lives of those touched by Down Syndrome alongside student leaders of other DFA studios. At the end of each design-intensive day, Dr. Wettergreen and the student leaders at DFA Rice met to review what they’ve learned and begin planning for DFA during the school year.

Dr. Wettergreen with DFA Rice studio lead, Amber, and other student leaders at Leadership Studio

This planning led DFA Rice to run mini-workshops on each step of the design process. These workshops guided project teams through a fast-paced, semester-long schedule, allowing them to practice and repeat the design process multiple times a year. Dr. Wettergreen strategized with and provided direction to the studio leads to facilitate a new model, which included tiered peer mentoring system. He met regularly with the studio leads, who provided direction to the team leads, who led the teams and together gave and received peer mentorship. They concluded with an End-of-Semester Review feeling like teams have accomplished more than ever before!

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DFA Rice End-of-Semester Review


DFA UC Berkeley connected with Seth Minard, a talented designer currently doing Interaction Design at Cooper. He’s interested in engaging in meaningful design as well as pursuing mentorship and design education outside of work.

Over the course of Fall Semester Seth met with project teams and guided them through the design process, tackling issues such as disaster preparedness in the Bay Area.

DFA UC Berkeley students with Seth at their final review

Seth’s goal moving forward is to help Berkeley DFAers have fun while they continuously iterate and create! Rather than creating problems to solve, the studio will tackle real issues, one of the core goals of DFA projects. As they work together, he hopes they will see the flexibility of the design process and all the different ways that learning can happen in their DFA studio.

These are just a few stories of the many great mentors in our network. Look out for more stories featuring these key supporters!


We’d like to thank the Masters students of School of Visual Arts, Dr. Wettergreen at Rice Oshman Engineering Education Kitchen, and Seth for being a part of this amazing network.