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How to facilitate Design Thinking for 1300 First-Year Students

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Facilitating a design thinking process for 1300 first year students can be extremely different especially when the students are not acclimated to the “norms” on the University’s campus. It can also be difficult for students to relate to one another in a new environment. One way to appeal to all 1300 first-year students is by recognizing an extreme cultural aspect such as climate conditions. This way to empathize with all 1300 students was discovered by Magann Dykema and other UIF members at Michigan Tech while planning a #UIFresh event. Magann and the UIF team members facilitated Chill Out with #UIFresh to introduce students to the design thinking culture seen at Michigan Tech.

Picking a date

When first-year students first arrive on campus, they are typically impressionable. It is important to make a lasting impact at this moment in their transition. Picking a date that aligns with another date where students are already going to convene such as orientation can make it easier on the college and planning committee to organize an event of this magnitude.

How Many?

A population of 1300 students can be overwhelming for the participants and for the staff on hand. Dividing the population into sample sizes of 100-200 would allow for minimal distractions and more team collaboration.

Making sure there is the right amount of staff is crucial to the success of the program. Being understaffed can allow for distractions at hand and hinder design thinking experience. Never hesitate to ask for volunteers to help staff the event. Having enough volunteers involved helps maintains the organization of the event.

Get Organized

Finding the balance between the number of participants and activities is key. It is important to allow enough time for students to act and discuss the activity at hand and make sure that each activity maintains productivity. Utilizing a detailed and well documented itinerary can help maintain this balance.

Every event is going to need a supply list. Appointing someone to gather the contents on the supply listwill help ensure that all supplies will be accounted for during the event.

Create a layout of how the event will look. Including table locations and supplies locations will help with set up and activity planning. 


Volunteers are important because they allow people to experience what it takes to put on the event. They can assist in set up, clean up, and time management. Not to mention that the volunteers may become leaders for future events.

Maintaining good documentation of the event will permit for a reference for future events. Key things to document would be the itinerary and the supplies list along with contacts for those that helped.

Gathering feedback is always important for every event. Implementing the feedback is just as important to help better future events.