Students are the heart of our team. With over 600 students in our network from over 60 different majors, Design for America believes interdisciplinary collaboration is key to innovation and effective problem solving. We bring together a broad spectrum of students from different majors ranging from biology, engineering, psychology, anthropology, physics, policy, design and beyond to lead the way in using design to create local and social change.
Faculty Founder & Staff
Dr. Elizabeth Gerber
→ As a professor in the Segal Design Institute at Northwestern University, Liz’s mission is to use design to build people’s confidence and motivate innovation. As an expert in creativity & innovation & the founding faculty member of DFA, she is doing exactly that. Liz received a BA from Dartmouth College & completed her doctoral degree & master’s degree in Product Design at Stanford University. Prior to DFA, Liz taught business & design at Stanford’s d.school & worked in the toy industry. Learn more about Professor Gerber here.
→ As Director of Operations & Segal Design Institute lecturer, Sami’s role is to grow the DFA network throughout the country while maintaining consistent project quality & student learning. Sami seeks to organize & empower communities with design as the means of creating change. At the start, Sami founded and taught the advanced studio, Design for Social Entrepreneurship at RISD, taught Design Futures at Pratt and worked for Design that Matters. It is the intersection of design, social impact, & education that consistently fuels her passion for DFA.
Daniel Rees Lewis,
Learning Consultant → With a Masters in the Learning Sciences from Northwestern University, Daniel marries his interests in organizations and how individual’s everyday actions affect their learning and performance, with a focus in designing artifacts that help people learn. He has 6 years experience in designing and delivering adult education, including communication skills, intercultural communication, Design, and English as a foreign language.
→ Giselle recently graduated from Cornell University where she majored in Psychology. As a pre-med, Giselle spent every summer volunteering around the world where she learnt the importance of intercultural and interdisciplinary work, something she now strives to apply in every facet of her life. Excited to make an impact in cities at home and abroad, Giselle hopes to use her work as a DFA fellow to help other students find the same passion and excitement for human-centered design that has fueled and informed her projects for the last four years. Ultimately, she hopes to see thousands of students representing all majors and backgrounds, using design to better their lives and communities.
→ After studying the process of building design as an architecture undergrad at Virginia Tech, Rob was inspired to co-found Design for America at Virginia Tech because DFA’s culture of community interaction, interdisciplinary teamwork, and real world implementation that has been quickly spreading across the country. After three fantastic semesters growing DFA in Blacksburg, Rob is excited to use the lessons he learned to help other schools spread their unique design cultures in their own cities and towns.
→ Graduating from Columbia in 2013, Julian comes to DFA with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and an explosive passion for innovation. As a DFA Fellow, Julian hopes to unite the various studios by inspiring and producing life-changing projects that improve communities. His passions have led to a career in social entrepreneurship with a passion for working beyond his comfort zone. The soccer field taught him well in the ways of team dynamics and leadership while his numerous projects have developed his technical skills. He raised over $5.5k for cancer research by donating his hair via his personal website, JulianGetsAHaircut.com.
→ When she joined DFA in 2009 as a student, Thea found a wonderful combination of most everything she loves- art, science, wonderful people, and meaningful action. Over the past 3 years, she’s filled a wide variety of roles from student coach to team cheerleader to studio lead, all experiences that she will draw upon to aid the success of today’s DFAers and their insightful solutions. She will never pass up brainstorming, adventuring, and nerding out about design, food, or nature. She continues to do these things tirelessly.
→ As a DFA Fellow, Kayla inspired and guided young innovators across the country. A graduate from Yale University in both art and mechanical engineering, she is passionate about the merger of the creative and technical, the abstract and concrete, the emotional and logical. She is no stranger to such dichotomies – growing up half-Puerto Rican taught her the value of understanding multiple points of view. Ultimately, she believes that design has the potential to touch lives in direct and meaningful ways and was excited to do so through her work at DFA.
Hannah Chung, → As a DFA co-founder and advisor, Hannah is a doodler, tinkerer, and a creative problemsolver. Living both in US and South Korea, Hannah loves meeting new people and learning different cultures. Sheis passionate in building confidence in people through design, and in exploring different communication methods to show the bigger picture and inspire others.
Aaron Horowitz → Aaron is a maker; from sculptures to business,he is fascinated with the process of taking an idea from concept to reality. In his time at Northwestern, he has cultivated a curiosity for the way in which we interact with our surroundings,fueling his passion in design and driving a desire to take a deep dive into the problems which face our world.
Jeanne Marie Olson → Jeanne is a consultant, researcher and designer who has worked for 20+ years at the crossroads of design thinking, learning strategy, and organizational systems change for global corporations and local not-for-profits. She is a faculty member of the graduate program in Learning & Organizational Change in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern, and is a lecturer for the Segal Design Institute. Learn more about Jeanne here.
Paul Gudonis → Paul brings 25 years of leadership experience in the information technology and communications industries, as well as a consistent commitment to improving the impact of technology and education in our society. FIRST, President. Launched the country’s first cell phone company at Ameritech Mobile; Chairman and CEO of Genuity, Inc., President and CEO of Centra Software, Inc. Expertise: pioneer inwireless, internet, and eLearning software and services.
Dr. Bruce Ankenman → As the Director of Undergraduate Programs at the Segal Design Institute Bruce is the institutional liason between DFA and Northwestern. He has recently been working on design of simulation experiments for discrete event simulation models. He is primarily interested in statistical tools of experimental design and analysis such as factorial and fractional factorial experiments, response surface methodology, and model building.
Julio M. Ottino → Professor Ottino is the dean of the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Northwestern University where he holds the titles of Distinguished Robert R. McCormick Institute Professor and Walter P. Murphy Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering. Born in Argentina, he had a career as an artist before he moved to the U.S. for his PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Minnesota.
Yuri Frank Maxwell Malina → As a DFA Co-founder, Yuri is many things, a rocket scientist, plant biologist, design activist, but most of all, he is an eternal optimist. Born in France, educated in the United States, Yuri has spent his life exposed to different European and American peoples and cultures, and as a result truly feels part of one human family. Through Design for America, and his many projects Yuri’s passion is taking on the greatest challenges facing our species.
Mert Hilmi Iseri → As a DFA
Co-founder, Mert is a young turk of design. He is fascinated by life and is absolutely stoked to improve it on our pale blue dot. His journey started off in Istanbul as a young idealist and changed courses completely once he arrived at Northwestern. Now, he is excited to embrace design and entrepreneurship to galvanize a generation into positive change.