Manhattanville College to Open Center for Design Thinking and Integrate Into Undergraduate and Graduate Curricula

Press Release

Manhattanville College to Open Center for Design Thinking and Integrate Into Undergraduate and Graduate Curricula

Design Thinking Brings Practical, Real-Life Applications to Any Life Pursuit or Career

June 13, 2018 • Communications

Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Email

(Purchase, N.Y.: June 13, 2018) — Manhattanville College announced today the establishment of the Manhattanville Center for Design Thinking and the fall 2019 integration of design thinking principles into its undergraduate and graduate curricula. The College will incorporate design thinking into the classroom as faculty uses the creative problem-solving approach to explore, examine, and resolve challenges in a range of academic disciplines. Design thinking takes a human-centered, design-based approach to help organizations innovate and grow.

The Manhattanville Center for Design Thinking students will work in teams in a lab-like environment, with faculty and staff drawn from a variety of different disciplinary backgrounds, using a case study methodology. Problem sets drawn from real life will be provided by industry and nonprofit institution practitioners recruited through Manhattanville’s alumnae/alumni network of successful professionals as well as neighbors from the Westchester County and Fairfield County business community (77 Fortune 500 companies).

“The job market requires a highly educated, flexible workforce that can collaborate with colleagues from different cultural and disciplinary backgrounds who possess different problem-solving skills that can quickly, and with relative ease, adjust to rapidly shifting market demands and working environments. That is the future for which the Manhattanville Center for Design Thinking will educate and prepare Manhattanville students,” said Dr. Michael Geisler, Manhattanville College president.

Manhattanville will be working with IDEO, a global design and innovation firm which has long been at the forefront of creating change through design, on its journey to become a design-led institution, identifying opportunities where design thinking can be applied across the college’s culture, curriculum, student experience, spaces, organization, and brand. Throughout the course of its engagement, IDEO will also work hand-in-hand with Manhattanville faculty and staff on the design challenge of creating a college experience that meets the needs of working students without sacrificing academic quality or reputation.

Principles of Design Thinking

The design thinking approach brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable to come up with new answers to difficult questions. It urges examination of complex problems from multiple angles and encourages prototyping and testing to evaluate how well the solution meets the needs of the end-user.

“We are delighted to be working with Manhattanville on further weaving Design Thinking into the fabric of their liberal arts education. In Manhattanville faculty and staff we have found open-minded collaborators, willing to roll up their sleeves to become skilled practitioners of Design Thinking and most importantly, work together to address student needs in innovative ways,” said Becky Bermont, IDEO Portfolio Director.

The three principal pillars of design thinking are based on:

  • The recognition that different types of problem-solving skills are needed in combination with different skill sets and perspectives to achieve results that customers or end-users will value and accept. 
  • Empathy-led approaches using techniques to train students in understanding what customers and users actually need (which may not be initially revealed or known) and will accept. 
  • The process of repeated prototyping and market-testing, where students learn that they need to fail and fail again before they eventually construct a product (or a procedure, or a new process or flow) that will prove successful.

What Sets Manhattanville’s Center for Design Thinking Apart

Manhattanville’s Center for Design Thinking differs from existing graduate models in that it will train design thinking in both the graduate and the undergraduate curriculum, side-by-side with traditional disciplinary approaches (e.g., a major in physics or business) in such a way as to allow the disciplinary and the cross-disciplinary (design) curricular scaffolding to cross-fertilize each other. The goal of Manhattanville’s design thinking program is to train all students, regardless of their professional direction, in using the techniques of cross-disciplinary collaboration and design thinking empathy and observation to any occupation.

The collaborative design thinking approach is intentionally cross-disciplinary, bringing together the insights, observational vantage points, and problem-solving skills of specialists, as well as those in the sciences, social sciences, arts, and/or humanities.

“The steps of Design Thinking provide students with an opportunity to practice empathy, as well as hone research, analysis, and critical thinking skills,” said Christine Dehne, Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences. “These are key components of a liberal arts education as well as the skills most frequently cited as valuable by employers. By embedding this methodology intentionally in our undergraduate curriculum, we are assisting our students to make the connection between education and application. The resulting project-based learning goes well beyond what can be captured in a resume or transcript. These students will be creating solutions to real-life problems, and developing the ability to continue their learning exponentially so that the learning from one project can be referenced and abstracted to help form solutions to future problems.”

“Design thinking is increasingly important to corporations and organizations when evaluating potential candidates for employment,” said Linda Kirkpatrick, executive vice president, Merchants & Acceptance at Mastercard, a member of Manhattanville’s Board of Trustees, and a Manhattanville alumna. “Design thinking is a creative and repeatable problem-solving approach that places the consumer at the center of every action. It can be applied to building strategies, products, services, processes – or just about anything that needs to be developed or improved upon. Manhattanville’s Design Thinking Center will help produce graduates who have fluency in this critical collaborative approach to business challenges.” 

Manhattanville’s Center for Design Thinking will be located in what is currently the President’s Cottage, a c. 1860 structure on the Purchase campus behind Reid Castle, which will be fully renovated under the direction of Spillman Farmer Architects.

The 7850 square foot two-story space will be home to four classrooms, one fabrication lab, a director’s office, a kitchen and dining area and a lounge. Images of the Manhattanville Center for Design Thinking from Spillman Farmer Architects follow.

Living Room Architecture Prototype

Office Architecture Prototype

About Manhattanville College

Manhattanville College is a small, private liberal arts institution dedicated to academic excellence, purposeful education, and social justice. Located 30 miles from New York City on a 100-acre suburban campus in the heart of bustling Westchester county, Manhattanville enables easy access to robust entertainment offerings, educational resources, and business opportunities for its primarily residential diverse student body. The College serves approximately 1,800 undergraduate students and 1,000 graduate students from more than 48 countries and 37 states. Founded in 1841, the College offers more than 90 undergraduate and graduate areas of study in the arts and sciences, education, business, and creative writing, as well as continuing and executive education programs. Graduate students can choose from over 75 graduate and certificate programs. Extracurricular offerings include more than 45 clubs and 20 NCAA Division III teams. To learn more, visit