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Season’s Readings: 7 Book Picks from the Lab’s 2021 Designers in Residence

As many of us head into a well-deserved winter break, we wanted to share some reading recommendations from a few of the Lab’s  Designers in Residence 2021 cohort.

When these higher education innovators aren’t leading their institutions in designing regional, learner-centered ecosystems, they are likely to be immersed in powerful reads. 

We hope you’ll check them out … and share your own picks with our #InnovatorNetwork on Twitter.

Lisa Larson

Ed.D, former President of Eastern Maine Community College and Head of Community College Growth Engine Fund, Education Design Lab (bio)

Change the Culture, Change the Game: The Breakthrough Strategy for Energizing Your Organization and Creating Accountability for Results

Roger Connors and Tom Smith share and apply their practical strategies to helping leaders accelerate culture change, energize their organizations, and create greater accountability for results. I appreciated the Results Pyramid model, which is a simple methodology for efficiently and effectively changing the way people think and act throughout to achieve their desired results, providing a guide in driving difficult cultural change.

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown. 

This book offers as set of guideposts toward wholehearted living, which involves “engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness.” The guideposts include cultivating self-compassion, cultivating a resilient spirit, cultivating calm and stillness, and finding meaningful work.

A few statements in this book have continued to sit with me. She wrote that “when we don’t give ourselves permission to be free, we rarely tolerate that freedom in others.” She also wrote: “We cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” And I really liked her definition of connection:  “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

Nicole L. McDonald

Ph.D., Assistant Vice Provost, Student Success Strategies, University of Houston (bio)

You Are a Data Person: Strategies for Using Analytics on Campus, by Amelia Parnell

The use of data and evidence to elevate, innovate, and expand priorities, strategies, policies, and practices for the students we actually serve is essential to student success. This book expands the discussion of the value and engagement in/around data in every role across campus.

Jairo McMican

Dean of Student Learning, Central Carolina Community College (bio)

Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm by Robin DiAngelo

This is a nice follow up to “White Fragility.” DiAngelo really exposes a lot more about her personal journey. 

The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation by Dr. Timothy Clark

This book was simply amazing! It was an easy read packed full of insightful information. I have already planned to facilitate professional development at my institution and around the state based on this book.


Stacy Townsley

Ph.D., VP for Adult Strategy and Statewide Partnerships, Ivy Tech Community College (bio)

Human Work: In the Age of Smart Machines, Jamie Merisotis

Inspiring read — Merisotis envisions a more connected post-secondary education and workforce ecosystem that is, essentially, strengths-based and affirming of our individual and collective capacity to engage in meaningful, fulfilling work at all levels.


Leah Moschella

Senior Education Designer leading the Designers in Residence cohort (bio)

How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning of the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith

This book combines powerful storytelling and personal experiences with history in a thought-provoking and captivating narrative. The author explores eight places of historical significance across the United States, from Monticello to New York City. Each place connects to an often untold part of the American story and is a reminder that by exploring our challenging past we might better understand the opportunities to connect as humans designing a more equitable future.

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