I am currently researching community partnerships between non-profit organizations and design students that are part of undergraduate courses. Two primary reasons to examine community partnerships are: (a) non-profit organizations need good design, but often cannot afford professional creative services, and (b) design students need professional experience working with clients. This research has revealed three different models of collaboration: community partner as client, co-educator and co-designer. Examples for each model describe expectations, contributions and reciprocal benefits.
The topic of my doctoral dissertation is service-learning in design education (SLIDE). The main research question is: To what extent is SLIDE mutually beneficial to community partners and design students? To address this question, a two-phased, mixed-methods study was devised, which resulted in feedback from 126 design educators, 44 non-profit organizations, and 53 design students. The findings demonstrate the benefits and challenges associated with SLIDE for the three stakeholder groups. The study confirms and extends theory in design and service-learning.
In my masters thesis essay, I explored the role of empathy in design thinking by looking to great thinkers from the 20th century, like Carl Rogers (client-centered therapy), John Dewey (education and experience), and Konstantin Stanislavski (method acting). The paper explains a variety of techniques for employing empathy throughout the human-centered design process to better understand the needs of users and their experiences with products and services. For my thesis project, I researched the aging population and designed a volunteer service called Boomer-Rang.