We’re redesigning and growing our fellowships program at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, and as you might expect, we’re launching to learn. In our work across the educational landscape, from graduate students to teachers to executives, we’re helping leaders build creative ecosystems to unlock the potential of others. The d.school is not just a place where people come together to innovate; it’s also a community where individuals can experiment with how best to infuse creative problem-solving in their worlds.
We’re excited to announce that we’ve hired our first fellowships director to help realize this vision. Justin Ferrell recently joined us from The Washington Post, where he was the director of digital, mobile & new product design. With our pioneer class of new fellows, Justin is prototyping a year-long, immersive creative leadership accelerator for early- and mid-career professionals with the potential to shift a specific field. Learn more about them all below, and check back here often: we’ll have regular posts on the fellowships, and we’ll announce the application process early next year to join us for the academic calendar 2013-14.
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Justin visited China in the summer of 1990 with his two older brothers and their Dad. The day they were going to Tiananmen Square, a local guide escorted them to the massive public space, the largest of its kind in the world. Justin remembers the jolting giant images of Chairman Mao; though he’d followed the student uprising on TV the summer before, there hadn’t been much footage to watch. It was mostly audio from a few western reporters describing the chaos they saw.
“Is this where the demonstrations were?” his oldest brother interrupted. The guide ducked his head, concerned. He motioned for them to come closer. “The lamps, there are cameras,” he warned. Then, “Look over there. See where they repainted the steps.”
That day, at 15, Justin decided to become a journalist.
Years later, the commentary section of The Washington Post named a new editor. Justin had been the section’s art director for about a year, but had never met the veteran foreign correspondent taking his first assignment in the newsroom. It wasn’t until the editor arrived that Justin learned he’d covered the massacre at Tiananmen, where hundreds of civilians, if not thousands (no one knows for sure), were killed when Chinese troops opened fire. Then they repainted the steps.
Justin worked with hundreds of dedicated journalists during his 15 years in news, and he challenged himself to be as good at the skills he brought to their collaborations as they were at theirs. He designed for newspapers, books, websites, tablets and cell phones. But most importantly, he designed for people, with people.
“I did it to work with them,” Justin says of his colleagues, “to create something together, for others, that none of us could do on our own.”
Now he’s helping restless experts redesign their worlds.
Justin recently joined the d.school as its first director of fellowships, an immersive new leadership accelerator for mid-career innovators with the potential to shift their professions. A career journalist specializing in organizational behavior and change, Justin worked for the last seven years for The Washington Post, most recently as the director of digital, mobile & new product design. He brought mobile designers and programmers into The Post newsroom, and enabled collaborative teams of reporters, editors, designers and developers to create groundbreaking work. Also a prolific visual storyteller, Justin’s designed several award-winning projects — including the investigative series “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency,” winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. He’s spoken on creative culture in many venues, from the SXSW Interactive festival in Austin to Education City in Doha, Qatar, and is an alum of the John S. Knight journalism fellowships at Stanford. Justin couldn’t be more thrilled to join the d.school and its glorious alchemy of human-centered designers.
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Matt was destined to be a farmer. As a youth, he revered his father, with whom he shared a profound affection for their family’s 10,000-acre conventional corn farm on the eastern plains of Colorado. Like his father, Matt possessed an independent and entrepreneurial mind, a fascination with natural ecosystems, and broad manual competence in making and fixing things. The profession fit him well and, approaching graduation from Dartmouth College, he had every intention of returning to the farm.
Until his father delivered a devastating blow: “Sorry boy,” he said regretfully, “the economics won’t work for your generation.” And so began Matt’s humble, yet nevertheless intrepid journey to fix the food system and one day print on his business card: Farmer.
With little training and less experience, Matt landed his first professional gig as the Director of Operations for Niman Ranch. Remarkable considering his degree in geology, Matt devised an innovative value chain that both connected hundreds of sustainable family farmers to premium markets across the country and generated returns for shareholders. Later, as a founding executive at venture-backed Attune Foods, he played a crucial role in launching a nationally distributed functional food brand in less than a year. Most recently, he led the Sustainable Food Program for Stanford Dining, where he developed a pioneering approach to experiential food education and behavioral research on 4,000 captive users — also known as meal plan students. In recognition of his work at Stanford Dining, Matt was nominated as a finalist for the Real Food Challenge’s “Administrator or Faculty Member of the Year Award.”
Along the way, Matt earned an MBA from Stanford, where he was first introduced to the d.school by way of the course, “Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability.” The experience fundamentally changed his worldview, as he discovered a latent capacity for creativity and began to see life as a series of prototypes. Moreover, he found a comfortably uncomfortable environment for introverts such as himself.
In his return to the d.school as a Fellow, Matt will be prototyping designs for a food systems laboratory that will continue to build on his previous work at Stanford. A powerfully collaborative endeavor, the laboratory will “enable long-term empathic partnerships with thought leaders who are working on the big opportunities in the food system — justice and equity, appropriate technology for small, diversified farms, disruptive food distribution models, and sustainable eating behaviors,” Matt explains. “We’ll leverage these partnerships as opportunities to both teach the design process and to apply it to real-world problems, through courses, workshops, and other pedagogical instruments.”
The lab’s objective will be to provide a meaningful design-thinking experience to every undergraduate student at Stanford, using food as the medium, in a manner that advances the overall system in a sustainable direction. When he’s not shepherding that, Matt will be tending his chickens and pursuing the art of fermentation. You can follow his rumination here or here.
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Whether as a community organizer or an economist, a development specialist, researcher or social entrepreneur, Nadia has worked tirelessly to uncover hidden talents and resources within individuals and organizations, and to build collaborative, creative, learning communities committed to social change.
She first learned to take a people-centered approach from economics Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz. “He’s the one that made me realize the importance of asking questions and the power of unbound curiosity,” she says of Stiglitz, a mentor and her former boss at the World Bank. After graduating from Stanford, Nadia worked with Stiglitz to launch the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University, where she earned a master’s degree in international affairs.
In the next ten years, Nadia launched several initiatives and organizations addressing a wide range of global social and economic issues: from the Women Leaders Intercultural Forum with Ireland’s former president Mary Robinson, to the Global Policy Innovations Program at the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, to the International Network of Foundations with the UN Alliance of Civilizations.
In Nadia’s desire to understand and bring about systemic change, she not only worked with global institutions, but also prioritized change at the grassroots level. In 2008, she co-launched the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California. AMCLI helps young, pioneering Muslim non-profit executives and public officials realize their full potential to foster healthy, civically engaged communities needed to sustain a robust, pluralistic American public square. “These communities have a lot of talent,” Nadia says. “If you can harness their contributions, it symbolizes the best of what America’s all about.”
Nadia also recognized the critical role that foundations play in brining about social change, and has played an increasingly significant role in this sector. She is a program officer for the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art’s Building Bridges Program, which she helped launch in 2007, and also has consulted for several other foundations, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund; the Rothschild Foundation; Bend the Arc: a Jewish Partnership for Justice; the Nathan Cummings Foundation; Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy; and the California Community Foundation.
Last year, Nadia was a project partner for the foundational d.school course, “Design Thinking Bootcamp: Experiences in Innovation and Design,” where she challenged Stanford students to redesign the American-Muslim philanthropic experience, post-9/11. Nadia will continue that work as a d.Fellow, where she’ll use design thinking to develop collaborative, creative networks to unlock talent and resources within philanthropy, and within largely underrepresented communities in America.
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Jenny’s path to the d.school was a circuitous one. As a college student she left the U.S for the first time, traveling with a friend to Israel and Egypt. The trip ignited a passion for international development that still keeps Jenny up at night, but it took her about a decade to fully turn her attention to it. At the time, she was studying engineering and physics at Berkeley, trying to wrap her head around quantum mechanics.
After a brief post-undergrad foray into management consulting for the tech industry, Jenny spent four years working on strategic projects for Google. There, she focused on building its business and operations internationally, and traveled to more than 20 countries on four continents (ask her about the time she flew from Mumbai to Sao Paulo). Jenny left Google in 2008 for Cambridge, Mass., to finally geek out on economics and international development at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She spent her master’s degree internship working in the President’s Office in Liberia, where she learned first-hand how difficult it is to get things done in the poorest public sectors on the planet.
Though she was initially skeptical about the importance of technology in places like Liberia that lack adequate roads and electricity, Jenny kept getting pulled into tech-related projects because of her experience at Google. Ultimately, she began to value technology, not for it’s own sake, but rather as an enabler for creating new systems. She believes innovation is critical to addressing the challenges of international development: “Instead of looking at what’s working in higher resource environments and trying to replicate it,” Jenny says, “we should look at the outcomes we’re trying to achieve, the environment we’re working in, and define new solutions that work in that context.” Her husband’s startup subsequently introduced her to human-centered design, and she’s convinced it could have an immense impact on the problems she cares most about.
As a d.fellow, Jenny is working with Associate Professor of Political Science Jeremy Weinstein to develop the “Governance Collaboratory” — an effort to harness design thinking to generate creative and disruptive innovations that improve governance in developing countries. The Governance Collaboratory will equip local innovators from the developing world with the expertise and technical resources of the Silicon Valley. Together, they will cycle through the human-centered design process to engineer solutions to make governments more open, more effective, and more accountable.
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David is a doctor/design thinker/street art documentarian/medical device entrepreneur & developing-world activist — but not necessarily in that order. He studied chemistry at UNC Chapel Hill, doing HIV research in the summers at nearby Duke University (keep your enemies closer, as they say). Although he was profoundly interested in medicine, he also wanted to see the world. David spent a semester abroad as an apprentice in a urology ward in Bonn, Germany, and a post-undergrad fellowship in Japan taking pictures of buildings. Then it was time to apply to medical school, and when he got the good word from Stanford, he lit out for the West.
Med school exceeded David’s wildest dreams, but after a couple of years, he was ready to go back on the road. He moved to Uganda for 12 months as a Doris Duke fellow to work on a clinical study of Kaposi sarcoma in AIDS patients. Upon returning to Stanford and after a year learning (and living) in a hospital, David decided to dabble on the other side of campus. He took an art class in visual design and found the d.school as a student in Design Thinking Bootcamp. With a new way of looking at the world, a mindset of prototyping and freshly ignited creative confidence, David wrapped up his medical school requirements and went on a mission to take any d.school class he could.
In “Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability,” David figured, what better way to see if medicine, global health and design thinking could be friends? He lucked out with an incredible team and an amazing trip to Bangladesh in an effort to combat pediatric pneumonia, the number one killer of children worldwide. Another project redesigning catheters for young adults in “Design for Service Innovation,” and one tackling health behavior change in “d.health,” convinced David that design thinking and medicine were a match made in heaven. So after graduating from med school, he joined the d.school full-time as a fellow, working to integrate design thinking principles into medical education, healthcare delivery, medical device design and global health practice. His startup team, CompactCath, presented at the Aspen Ideas Festival last summer, and David recently returned from the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting, where he moderated a panel on advancing women-owned businesses in the developing world.
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When Molly, then age 10, and her grandmother, age 70 – two peas in a pod when it came to curiosity – took a Photoshop class together, Molly realized she could make anything she could imagine. Many fabric scraps, blinking lights, paint-stained fingers, messy spatulas, and stray pixels later, she’s still obsessed with making anything and everything.
Bit by bit, Molly learned that her favorite creations were those meant for other people to experience. Her grade-school book reports were full-blown participatory class exercises, much to the amusement of her teachers. After graduating from Harvard with a degree in history of science, she worked as a UX designer for Harvard’s academic technology group. It turns out sitting at a screen all day wasn’t her cup of tea, so she began to zero in on teaching as a career. She student-taught in New Hampshire and Norway before launching into teaching high school history in Pittsburgh. Along the way, she gravitated towards educational technology as a way to leverage her nerd skills and bring new kinds of craft and depth to teaching, and she eventually came to the d.school while earning her master’s in Learning, Design, and Technology at Stanford Graduate School of Education.
When Molly first set foot inside the d.school, she found something she’d always dreamed of: the place where teaching and making meet. She loves being a part of a crew of independent-minded collaborators who are passionate about crafting learning experiences. At the d.school, Molly focuses on teaching, curriculum, and expanding the reach of design thinking in education.
Molly has spent the past year at the d.school focused on design thinking teaching and curriculum. She’s currently teaching the foundational course, Design Thinking Bootcamp: Experiences in Innovation and Design, for the second time, and has also co-taught two other graduate-level courses (Innovations in Education and Design for Sustainable Abundance). Between classes, Molly’s led design thinking workshops for clients from all over education: Teach for America, Citizen Schools, Education Elements, and a broad coalition of educators in Hawaii, to name a few. She helped launch the Virtual Crash Course, the d.school’s first experiment in online education, and she’s screenprinted enough T-shirts to outfit an innovation army.
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Tammy’s eyes light up at the mere mention of adventure, whether that means embarking on a three-year, two-person sailing voyage from Seattle to Thailand (ask her about the pirates); riding her motorcycle to Alaska and back; or the quiet discovery she finds in carving wood. She seeks challenges wherever she is, and the d.school is no exception.
A versatile player, Tammy brings a holistic, down-to-earth style and corporate experience to her role as program ninja of the d.school fellowships. In addition to helping launch workshops, teach and execute events, you can also find Tammy at the nerve center of the d.school, where she navigates staff, faculty and visitors through day-to-day activities.
Tammy’s ecstatic about being able to collaborate with such like-minded people. “This is absolutely, positively the best place I’ve ever worked,” she says. “Every day I’m amazed at the people and I get to experience and collaborate with.”