Lecturer + Purpose Learning Lead
A geeky Zimbabwean, an impassioned South African and a diplomatic Kenyan entered Microsoft headquarters as students. They left as entrepreneurs with a plan. This vibrant team of young leaders had pitched their solution — an edutainment idea to get township youth as jazzed about learning math as they were — with such clarity the managing director called them “more poised and purposeful” than most of the adults who passed through his board room.
In that moment, these young people had discovered they not only had good ideas, but were uniquely skilled to take action on them. Jess lives for moments like these.
Jess loves to ignite young leaders with entrepreneurial and design thinking along with a deep sense of personal purpose in their work.
As one of the design leads for the Stanford2025 project, Jess worked with a rockstar team to imagine the future of living + learning at Stanford. She is advancing one of the concepts called Purpose Learning: Declare a mission, not a major, which recognizes the future will require greater student agency than ever before, through experiments on campus and beyond.
Before coming to the d.school, one of her greatest joys was to design and lead the flagship Entrepreneurship program at African Leadership Academy, a pan-African secondary school in Johannesburg for Africa’s future leaders. These young leaders and world-changers she had the privilege of teaching she considers to be family.
During her years at IDEO, she was known for sleeping in mud huts in Ethiopia and learning to plow a field with an obstinate ox (much to the humor of her local hosts). She initiated the Design for Social Impact domain, which grew into IDEO.org, and kicked off a movement of open-source design thinking tools with the HCD Toolkit (Human-Centered Design).