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Announcing New Bridging Disciplines Certificate in Design Strategies

As one of the premier research institutions in the nation, The University of Texas at Austin is an ideal place for students to dream big. Across campus, UT students are imagining new, innovative ways to rethink the status quo. A new undergraduate certificate program, Design Strategies builds on this energy and provides structure to students looking for ways to explore innovative problem-solving.

The Bridging Disciplines Programs (BDP) is pleased to announce that its portfolio is expanding with the addition of this latest interdisciplinary certificate, which began receiving applications in spring 2018. Design Strategies is geared towards students who want to master “design thinking” skills outside of traditional departmental programming, develop a design thinking toolbox, and learn about the social context of design.

Responding to Demand and Achieving a Vision

The BDP in Design Strategies is a collaborative effort with UT’s Center for Integrated Design (CID), founded in 2016. In an effort to respond to new demands from employers across a range of fields, the certificate and the CID both highlight the importance of interdisciplinary “design thinking” for students of all backgrounds.

The certificate responds to a very clear message from students. “There is enormous interest in a program like this—they’ve been asking, begging, for this,” said Holly Williams, Senior Associate Dean in the College of Fine Arts, professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, and member of the Design Strategies faculty panel. In developing a new program, she says, student interest is “always the best place to start.”

Doreen Lorenzo, Assistant Dean in the School of Design and Creative Technologies, Executive Director for the Center for Integrated Design, and Chair of the Design Strategies faculty panel, echoed this sentiment. Dean Lorenzo sees the new BDP responding to demands from students as well as from employers, who have new expectations for today’s workforce. “In today’s highly competitive business landscape, organizations recognize the value of design as a key differentiator,” Lorenzo said. With interdisciplinary coursework and experiential learning in the form of a required capstone design project, students can expect to be well-equipped in design thinking as they pursue a variety of professional opportunities.

What is Design Thinking?

The Design Strategies BDP is rooted in the idea of “design thinking,” which is a complex framework that Dean Lorenzo described as: “the methodology that designers have always used to understand what the problem is and who they are solving it for. It is an interdisciplinary, human-centered approach to finding an answer. It requires discovery, ideation, and experimentation to develop new methods and approaches.”

Design thinking looks to prioritize the human experience above all else. Faculty panel member Tamie Glass, an associate professor in the School of Architecture, described it this way: “Human-centered design employs empathy and creativity to design for people. Whether the outcome is a service, a product, an environment—or anything that can be designed—it is developed through the lens of people and their needs and behaviors.”

The Design Strategy certificate is applicable and available to all undergraduate students at UT, not just those who identify with traditional understandings of what it means to be a “designer.” In the words of Professor Glass, “while this program alone will not make you a designer, it will teach you how to think like one.” Students with interests in government, public policy, healthcare, education, urban design, and business, among many other sectors, will find that this certificate provides a practical toolkit for how to use design methods to solve today’s biggest challenges.

a student writes down ides during a brainstorming session