Featured Fellow: Julian Bongiorno


Denzel Washington once quoted the Roman philosopher Seneca and said, “luck is where opportunity meets preparation.” As a DFA Fellow Julian Bongiorno seized opportunities when they arose. In his first year as a Fellow, Julian received the PAVE Fellowship to attend The Feast Conference along with a $10k investment in his future, attended The StartingBloc Institute for social innovators, has been a guest lecturer at a variety of universities including Duke and most recently began working as an innovation workshop facilitator for a large healthcare firm after being approached while at a pitch event with DFA team. For twelve weeks, Julian will apply the design, mentoring and user-focused skills he’s learned in DFA to three innovation teams in Chicago.

“Chicago’s really great because there’s a lot of things going on and a lot of support, but it’s not a super saturated environment. It’s just enough so everyone knows everyone and there are a lot of resources, connections and money available.”

For Fellows coming to immerse themselves in the Chicago design environment, Julian says that to make the most of the experience they should get to know everyone in the DFA office and those associated with it including the research team upstairs lead by DFA’s founder, The Delta Lab. “They’re awesome and whatever you do, if you do it with them helping you, it’s going to be 10 times better.”

Julian also suggests living in one of the young, interesting neighborhoods downtown and finding a winter coat and steel-toe boots because when Fellows aren’t traveling to mentor various DFA studios around the U.S., they are in Chicago making strategic decisions about DFA’s growth, going to events and helping to develop DFA as an organization.

“I didn’t realize how much of the design process could be applied to organizational growth. For me my users are DFAers.”


Julian’s favorite part of being a Fellow is mentoring studio leads and members and “helping everyone create an impact with their projects or their studios projects.” After Julian’s Fellowship wraps up this August, he wants to use the experience he’s gained and work for a social impact oriented design firm. He’d also like to revive the road trip culture in the U.S. so that it’s on par with that of Europe and Australia. This fall Julian will spend some time in Italy and says he’ll then “come back and start career-ing again!”

DFA Alum Helps Set DFA’s Strategy

547223_4159689863710_531718892_nSara Mesing, co-founder of DFA Case Western| CIA,  is part of the Business Development team at XPLANE. She introduces new clients to XPLANE and acts as an advocate and liaison throughout the duration of client engagements. She got connected to XPLANE through a friend at DFA’s  Leadership Studio back in 2012.

Thanks to Sara’s efforts, XPLANE will be partnering with Design for America  to develop a 5-year strategic plan to accommodate all stakeholders in the organization’s high growth trajectory. As such, XPLANE will lead and facilitate dialogue to uncover the current state of the organization, envision the future state, and determine what steps are needed to get there.

Where are They Now?

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.

With a Strong Community Partner, Fishes and Loaves Wins $20,000!


A big congratulations to the Fishes and Loaves team from the Yale studio who is partnering with the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry and Clothing Closet. The collaboration just won $20,000 to put toward the redesign of their donation service!

Going into the new year, the team is looking forward to implementing as “things always get messy once you put them out in the real world, but managing that chaos is a really fun part of the process.” Learn more about the project from an interview with team member, Ben Weiner!

Girls Driving for a Difference


On October 24th, 2014, Jenna and Katie spent the day in San Francisco coaching design and maker workshops for elementary school students. While driving back to Stanford campus later that night, they could not have felt more physically exhausted but intellectually awake and inspired. It was on this drive home, ironically enough, where they began to craft a dream together for this summer that involved a much longer drive of its own.

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