What’s it like working at DFA National as a Fellow? We asked CC and Allison, the 2015-2016 Fellows, to find out!
What kinds of projects do you work on at DFA National?
CC: I mainly work on 3 projects – managing the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Sponsored Project, developing a studio leadership guide, and supporting the 29 DFA studios in the network.
In the Fall I co-managed the Fiat Chrysler projects with Rob. There were 5 teams all over the nation and I got to really dive into each project and lead them through the process, sending them resources and keeping them on track of logistics and funding. In December after 10 weeks we had our expo at the FCA headquarters, and it was really cool seeing the executives at FCA super excited about the projects, students, and work that DFA does!
I’m also currently developing a studio guide, like a process guide but for running your studio. DFA has a lot of great resources, like the Process Guide and one-pagers. Currently we have a lot of stories of best practices for supporting the studio, which we’re developing into more structured resources. So I’m building on what we have and interviewing studio leads to synthesize that information to creating guidelines to help studio leads manage their studio better.
In the Fall, the whole team worked together to develop and deliver the studio support service. Now in the Spring, Allison and I took charge of delivering that service to studios. We look to see what studios are doing and how we can support them. As we expand our network, I see this service as a core part of what DFA does.
Allison: We all do a little bit of everything, but the three main projects I’m working on are redesigning the website, marketing and communications, and the studio support service.
I got to apply the human-centered design process to the website with Stacy. We figured out who our key stakeholders are, how we want to present ourselves to them, and how they’d like to interact with the website in a way that also fits with our organizational goals. During this process we also refined and crafted the story of DFA, so I learned a lot through the website and how to talk about DFA in general.
A big part of marketing and communications is identifying cool stories and sharing them. Some recent blog posts that I wrote include professional mentors in the network and how they support students, and a project gallery of about 80 projects from Fall 2015. Promoting content like that helps everyone learn more and get excited about DFA online.
And like CC said, we work together for studio support, which is all about understanding the goals and needs of all our 29 studios and supporting them as best we can.
How does the Fellowship expand on your interests from undergrad?
CC: I was always interested in learning the inner workings of an organization and organizational design. Also, while being part of DFA Northwestern for 4 years I really tried to build community while I was there through planning activities and events like the first Midwest Meetup. Now that I’m working as a Fellow, I’m contributing to people making connections and building community on a national scale!
Allison: I took an interdisciplinary approach in school and dabbled in a lot of subjects. I really appreciated exploring and trying different things and I saw the value of coming from different disciplines. So I brought that approach to my job and am wearing different hats everyday!
In what areas do you feel you’ve improved since becoming a Fellow?
CC: The Fellowship is my first job after college! So it’s really helped me improve my time management and goal setting, and generally my experience working as a professional. I learned how to take charge of the projects I’m working on and see them holistically, as well as paying attention to detail.
Allison: I was terrible at networking before, just an awkward human being. It’s great to go into networking events and pitch DFA to people because they usually find it really interesting. I can say this is what I value and what my goals are, and understand other people’s values and goals, and see the intersection. I think that’s the heart of networking, connecting with people who have similar values.
And last but not least, what’s your favorite thing about being a Fellow?
CC: It’s amazing to see the internal workings of a social non-profit as we grow. You get to really contribute to this organization as a Fellow. As an organization, we’re very invested in human-centered design, not only for student projects but how we work as well. We’re passionate about our mission, which is to empower students to make local and social impact and become leaders of innovation. I see that value communicated in every touchpoint we have and every material we make.
Allison: I feel really inspired by all the work that the students in our network do. Because my job is to tell stories and promote DFA I see a lot of projects, and it’s really inspiring to see people actually going out into their communities and making impact. As a recent grad I know how challenging this work is when you have a million things going on, so I’m really proud of the work everyone is doing.
Interested in becoming a DFA Fellow? Apply to the 2016-2017 Fellowship by March 15, 2016! Learn how to apply here.