The What and Why of Design Thinking


Design thinking is a systematic approach to solution-finding that promotes empathy, collaboration, creativity, action and iteration. It emphasizes a rapid cycle of understanding the user, developing clarity and focus around the problem to be solved, brainstorming widely around possible solutions, quickly moving toward building prototypes to better understand the possible solutions, and testing the solution on users for feedback and learning. As an iterative cycle, this process is repeated working toward better and more innovative solutions.




This fall, the Center for Design Thinking’s annual Fall Design Challenge teams are exploring how to re-connect, re-engage, and re-build our campus community. After close to 18 months of virtual learning and meeting, how might we re-commit to one another as colleagues, teachers, students, and alumni, resulting in a revitalized sense of community? 


Professor Deborah Saleeby-Mulligan, Museum Studies

Prof. Salleby-Mulligan teaches the Museum Studies Curatorial Seminar. Using a project-based learning approach, the course has identified the lack of inclusion and equity in the artwork displayed in Reid Castle as a problem to be tackled. This “problem” was identified by students and then taken on as a challenge by our Spring 2021 Designing for Change class, which worked with Prof. Saleeby-Mulligan and Michelle Ping-Gaines in Alumni Affairs. Students in the Designing for Change class gathered data from empathy interviews conducted with a wide range of students from the campus community. Then in the fall 2021 semester, students in the Museum Studies Curatorial Seminar came together to ideate and prototype designs for the exhibition and test these prototypes. Toward the end of the semester, students will be broken into teams to design and mount the exhibition, which will be on display in the Castle.

Prof. Saleeby-Mulligan and Michelle Ping-Gaines also participated in Elon University’s Design Forge over the summer where we examined equity-centered community design.

Watch her Design Thinking Lighting Talk

Check out the results of the Center for Design Thinking's Fall 2020 Design Challenge.

Tackling issues surrounding equity, diversity, and inclusion

During the fall 2020 semester, Dr. Porter and the Presidential Taskforce on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion drafted a Roadmap towards Achieving Racial Equity and Inclusion that was widely discussed during the spring 2021 semester and will continue during the coming year. The Roadmap provides transparency and accountability in the College’s efforts to enhance the experience of historically underserved populations, identify and remove cultural and structural barriers impacting the student experience and outcomes, and guide institutional strategic planning and resource allocation.

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Connect with Dr. Alison S. Carson

Professor of Psychology, Director of The Center for Design Thinking, and Associate Provost for Academic Innovation ad Design Thinking

To find out how to get involved in Design Thinking, contact Professor Carson below.


Reach out today

The Center for Design Thinking is a central hub supporting the growth and implementation of design thinking across the Manhattanville campus. At the Cottage, students, staff, and faculty learn about, participate in, and integrate design thinking into clubs, offices, and curricula. These initiatives result in students developing knowledge and 21st-century skills through the application of design thinking to real-world problems.

The Center for Design Thinking promotes empathy, collaboration, creativity, action and iteration, and the value of curiosity. These skills are best applied to tackling real, complex, and unscripted problems that have no known solutions, also known as “wicked problems.” Through curricular and co-curricular activities, students have opportunities to experience and practice the process and mindsets of design thinking. From the FabLab, where students can engage in the practice and art of making, to workshops, where students can get a taste of design thinking, to full courses, where students learn to tackle real-world challenges, the Center for Design Thinking offers many active learning experiences to grow design thinkers ready to tackle 21st-century problems.

Working with community stakeholders to solve real problems in line with the mission and goals of a Manhattanville education, students are empowered to enact change. Through partnerships with our Mary T. Clark Center for Religion and Social Justice and our Center for Career Development, students take their knowledge and skills of design thinking and apply that learning to creative problem-solving with community partners. The Center for Design Thinking supports a problem-based learning education at Manhattanville so that our students learn to use design thinking to become positive, creative change-makers both on campus and off.