Design Thinking for Innovation: How York College Students Are Putting Design Thinking Training to Use in the Community
Written by Marilyn Damord '24, Content Marketing Intern
The Graham Collaborative Innovation Fellows at York College of Pennsylvania are an extraordinary group of college students with a goal to drive their undergraduate experiences further than the typical classroom walls. The innovation-based fellowship program invites students from a variety of backgrounds to explore new, inventive ideas that address real-world problems using the power of design thinking, an approach to problem solving that centers around the human experience.
What happens when a nonprofit organization needs a way to increase the community’s awareness of art? What about when a college campus needs a way to enrich its curriculum and improve the quality of undergraduate education?
When faced with problems in need of solving, the most important tools to have in the design thinker’s toolkit are a listening ear and an open mind. As more and more college courses have begun utilizing design thinking frameworks in their curricula, the Graham Fellows have been at the forefront of the revolution, using their expertise to teach others how to best reap the benefits of this innovative technique.
Meet the Innovators
The Graham Fellowship program is headed by Karin Swartz and Dominic DelliCarpini of the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), a hub for the growing relationship between York College and the city of York that it calls home. From day one, the Fellows at York College are hard at work on “actual programs with community members, community leaders, and programs that [students] themselves designed,” says Dr. DelliCarpini. Along with other advisors, he helps to guide these students closer towards their goals.
“I do think that any student could benefit from the Graham Innovation Fellows,” says Jason Ghansah ‘24, a Graham Innovation Fellow and Accounting major at York College. Through the Graham Fellowship, the Scholars are learning from each other and “creating new bonds.” Jason takes pride in these growing connections.
Other Graham Fellows have described their time in the program as a rewarding journey toward realizing their passions with design thinking strategies, adding a greater sense of meaning to their college careers. Through a variety of workshops on design thinking, students have collaborated with one another and challenged each other to think outside of the box to create lasting solutions for the community.
“How Might We…?”
Once the ideas start flowing, the next step in design thinking is to figure out “how” these new insights can be transformed into tangible products. For the Graham Fellows, design thinking skills have been the key ingredients in tackling countless community initiatives—such as the Marketview Arts storefront in downtown York—in which these students are able to take their responsibility and leadership skills to the next level. Whether in the heart of York or on travels worldwide, their ambition has left behind remarkable impacts.
“I’ve never worked to create a business,” remarks Alyssa Racosky ‘24, whose understanding of design thinking goes hand-in-hand with her Integrated Marketing Communication major. “It’s so rewarding when you get to see your plans become a real thing.”
In addition to the CCE, students and faculty alike are looking forward to the developments of both the Graham Center for Collaborative Innovation and the Knowledge Park, where they will continue to be involved in project-based learning and partnerships with local businesses/industry partners.
With the help of the design thinking process, Graham Innovation Fellows have the tools they need to carve their own paths, using the valuable lessons they are learning to bring new life to the communities around them. By shaping their education in alignment with their own personal ambitions, the Scholars and their successes are making an impact that will last a lifetime.