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A Culture of Care >> Read Smith’s plans for the fall 2021 semester.


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Work that results from experimentation and collaboration with and through the Design Thinking Initiative explores diverse questions, subjects and mediums. We are proud to showcase the breadth of this work as demonstrations of the power of design to bridge disciplines and create learning opportunities for making and doing.

Faculty Projects

The mission of the Design Thinking Initiative is to incorporate design thinking into liberal arts education and to facilitate ongoing dialogue about the role design plays in shaping the human experience. To support this mission several curriculum enhancement grants were offered in four categories: Bridging Divides; Methods and Mindsets; Experimental Learning Spaces; and Remix the Curriculum. Explore the categories to learn how faculty have engaged with the initiative and integrated design into their curriculum.

Focus: Collaborating across the disciplinary divisions.
Example: Two (or more) courses from different divisions working together on a common design project.

Landscape Studies & Engineering

  • Reid Bertone-Johnson
  • Susannah Howe
  • Broadscale Design
  • Planning Design Clinic

Professors worked together to link two courses around a common design challenge to create a parklet for the Northampton Department of Public Works.

Anthropology & Engineering

  • Suzanne Gottschang
  • Susannah Howe
  • Preparation of future courses in anthropology and engineering

For the second year, Susannah Howe and Suzanne Gottschang will shadow each other’s courses to develop a plan for further student design collaborations between the anthropology and engineering departments.

Studio Art & Landscape Studies

  • Fraser Stables
  • Reid Bertone-Johnson
  • [Studio Art] Cross-Disciplinary Foundations
  • Visual Storytelling

Linking two courses through a collaborative four-week design project at Smith College’s MacLeish Field Station.

Making Knowledge

  • Alex Keller
  • Dana Leibsohn
  • Making Knowledge/Sharing Knowledge

Creation of new interdisciplinary course on the making and sharing of knowledge.

Focus: Propose small but effective changes in supplies and materials that could transform how you use an existing learning space.
Propose a creative and mindful use of the Capen Annex classroom or prototyping studio.
Example: A plan to build a prototyping cart for Japanese language courses that allows students to create artifacts as they learn key concepts.

Making Knowledge

Understand Italian Artisanry
  • Bruno Grazioli
  • Made in Italy: Italian Design and World Culture

Enhanced emphasis on design process. Introduction of iterative prototyping to study of Italian culture and design.

Focus: Existing courses are transformed by incorporating design thinking:

Mindsets—collaboration, human-centeredness and experimentation
Methods—redefining problems through empathy with stakeholders, iterative prototyping and testing.

Example: An anthropology course that uses prototyping or making to expand its methodological approach.
Example: Support for a design/build special studies with two or more students from multiple disciplines.

Design Debates on Smith’s MOOC

  • Lauren Duncan
  • Deborah Keisch
  • Psychology of Political Activism: Women Changing the World

Enhanced emphasis on design process. Course applies design thinking principles to effectively scaffolding substantive online discussions for Smith’s first Massively Open Online Course (MOOC).

How to Make a Map

  • Jon Caris
  • Scott Gilman
  • Faculty development workshop

Development of a new course for faculty to facilitate more mapmaking into course work.

19th-Century Photography

  • Anna Lee
  • Liz Bannish
  • Vernacular Photography: 19th Century Materials and Processes

Development of hands-on workshops for study of 19th century photography materials and processes.

Socially Engaged Memory

  • Lynne Yamamoto
  • Topics in Installation Art

Development of socially engaged art on the topic of memory. Students will design a play corner at the Kensington School in Springfield, MA, which enrolls many resettled children from Syria and other countries.

Prototyping Anthropology

  • Caroline Melly
  • Suzanne Gottschang
  • Multiple anthropology courses

Enhanced emphasis on design process. Grant to develop prototyping kits for use by anthropology department.

Nanoscale Design

  • Nathan Derr
  • Experimental Design in Biomolecular Engineering: Nanoscale Vehicles

Enhanced emphasis on design process in the exploration of nanoscale vehicles.

Focus: Design-oriented intellectual engagements that take place outside of the classroom to feed into or expand the educational mission of the campus.
Example: A weeklong design challenge bringing together people from biology, mathematics, French, African studies and dance.

Making Knowledge

Design Policy Briefs
  • Kim Y. Dionne
  • African Politics

Enhanced emphasis on design process. Students apply design thinking principles to the effective design of African political briefings.

Student Projects

Student Studio Work

Student Course Work Videos

Team Trash
ReaDefining Smith Funding
Taking the Gloss out of Admissions

Student Project Portfolios


Global Design Immersions

Global Design Immersions match Smithies with emerging international organizations who are committed to making a positive social/environmental impact in the world through the practice of human-centered design. Students are awarded a grant that provides a living stipend and covers all international travel expenses. This is an opportunity for students to apply their education in real-world dynamic environments, to explore beyond the comforts of the classroom, to be immersed in new cultural contexts, and to experience first-hand the transformational potential of design thinking.

Visiting Designers

The Design Thinking Initiative brings emerging and established leaders in the field to campus to share their work and perspective on the practice of design in today’s world.