news and events

Updates from the Field | Building Understanding

The “understand” part of our design work is what allows it to be “human-centered”— through empathy building, we root ourselves in users’ experiences so we can approach the development of solutions through the lens of their needs, motivations, and behaviors. This summer, the Lab dug into the “understand” phase of this work with institutional teams from two of our newest design challenges – Single Moms Success and G3 Healthcare Pathways

Project updates below:

REIMAGINING Single Moms Success | Convening Recap

Earlier this summer, design teams made up of administrators, faculty, and staff from Central New Mexico Community College, Delgado Community College, Ivy Tech Community College, and Monroe Community College gathered in Indianapolis, Indiana, for the National Convening of the Single Moms Success Design Challenge (SMSDC). 

We kicked off the convening with a National Gallery Walk, immersing the teams in a curated collection of quantitative and qualitative data gathered from both national research and campus interviews conducted with faculty, staff, and single mother learners.  Reading and reflecting on the gallery, team members were able to ground themselves in single mother learners’ experiences, perspectives, and needs and to draw new insights about how they might better support their success. 

For an overview of how the gallery walk works, check out this video.

Special Guests and Provocateurs 

We were joined by special guest Jennifer Zeisler, Senior Program Director, Career Readiness, of the ECMC Foundation, which is funding the design challenge. Speaker and author Joy Thomas Moore shared stories from her and others’ experiences as single mothers in a fireside chat moderated by Marta. In addition, the Lab invited several experts from the field to serve as “provocateurs” and help push the teams to stretch their thinking throughout the session:


Participants work with Barbara Gault, IWPR, to identify major themes and insights about Single Mother Learners from the National Gallery Walk.


With their appetite for understanding and ideation bigger than ever, the design teams headed back home where they have been spending the summer furthering their research and learning about single mother learners’ experiences on their campus. This fall, the Lab will visit each of the four schools to lead Gallery Walks with over 100 local stakeholders at each campus. These will be followed by 1-day design sessions with 25-30 campus leaders who will work with the design teams to build on the learning and insights to develop concepts and prototypes for testing. 


Ivy Tech Community College hosted a special dinner for the cohort and the Lab invited guest speaker and author Joy Thomas Moore for a fireside chat moderated by Marta Urquilla.

Single mother learners and the Single Moms Success Design Challenge Cohort Members meet with Speaker and author Joy Thomas Moore.


Learn more about the Single Moms Success Design Challenge here. Follow the project on twitter using #SingleMomsSuccess.


Understanding the Student Experience | G3 Healthcare Pathways Design Challenge

In early 2019, Virginia Western Community College (VWCC) was selected to participate in a state-wide collaborative effort to transform workforce programs as part of the Virginia Community College System’s G3 (Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back) planning grant. Recognizing that the healthcare field in the western Virginia region is growing, with a high need for a skilled workforce in both clinical and non-clinical roles, VWCC crafted the following dual question to solve for:

  • How might we design employer-driven, stackable pathways that can lead to an AAS degree and prepare students for employment in the high-growth healthcare industry?
  • How might we design a related “One Door” advising model that increases institutional efficiency and student success rates?

To solve for those questions, the Lab travelled to Roanoke, VA, earlier this summer and led a two-day design session with VWCC, which included a Gallery Walk and rapid prototyping session.

The first day of the visit over 40 VWCC stakeholders participated in one of the day’s three Gallery Walk sessions. Participants dove into the Gallery Walk research—which included institutional data, regional trends, and student and stakeholder interviews. At the end of each Gallery Walk session, participants identified key themes woven throughout the student journey in the healthcare pathways at VWCC.


VWCC President Dr. Sandel participates in one of the day’s Gallery Walk sessions


These themes were then carried over into the visit’s second design session—a full day of ideation and design as the core team jumped into creating concepts and prototypes can meet the needs of students and employers while also addressing the deliverables set forward by the VCCS for the G3 Grant.

By the end of the second design session, we developed four early prototypes that will be tested with students, administrators, and employers through August and early September.

We’re so excited about the work happening at VWCC. We see the potential for healthcare pathway models like this to be scaled in the western Virginia region, and ultimately to other US regions—connecting more rural community college learners to meaningful careers in the high growth healthcare field. 

Learn more about the G3 Healthcare Pathways Design Challenge here. Follow the project on twitter using #G3HealthcarePathways.