Radical Cooperation in Action: Design Thinking & Global Engagement

Thanks to a cross-college faculty grant provided by TCS Education System, Luann Fortune, Ph.D., faculty at Saybrook University, and Julie Benesh, Ph.D., chair of the online business psychology program at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, traveled to Berlin, Germany in May 2019 for a cultural exchange with a focus on Design Thinking.

Design Thinking is a solution-based approach to solving problems by focusing on the user—understanding, challenging, and redefining problems to find alternative strategies and solutions. User experience has long been a priority for design, with Apple being the prime example of a company on the forefront of innovation and success. However, the principles and process can be applied not just for designers, but for those in the science, literature, engineering, and business fields—it offers a human-centered approach for creative solutions.

dr fortune and dr benesh at a table writing on yellow cards

Design Thinking abroad

During their 10-day stay at SRH Hochschule Berlin University (SRH), Drs. Fortune and Benesh immersed themselves in SRH’s approach to teaching and applying Design Thinking to a variety of concepts. By focusing on the user experience to inform product, service, and experience, they explore recent applications to business, social innovation, health care, and education.

At one SRH campus, the Design Akademie of Berlin, they joined graduate students in the classroom as they jointly applied Design Thinking methods to a social innovation project to repurpose a train tunnel that is no longer in use. By looking particularly at the social opportunity of this particular challenge, Design Thinking offers an efficient and bold way to look at solutions.

students writing on a large poster sized sheet of paper

At another campus, they experienced how SRH Hochschule’s Entrepreneurial Startup Lab is integrating strategic design approaches. At the Hochschule der popularen Kunste, they learned about new multidisciplinary advancements in curriculum such as modular learning and a degree program in music psychology. Throughout their visit, they engaged with faculty in discussions about program development and instructional approaches.

At the conclusion of their stay, Drs. Benesh and Fortune hosted a webinar for Saybrook and other partner school colleagues, featuring SRH professors Sigrid Peukder, Katrin Androschin, and Julia Leihener. Their lively discussion about foundational principles and applications of Design Thinking offered an in-depth look at how this concept is being discussed and applied around the world.

two women near a group of windows smiling

Bringing the experience back home

Dr. Benesh is interested in further cultural exchanges, including investigating a potential study abroad in Berlin and inviting SRH faculty to doctoral residencies.

Dr. Fortune plans to invest her newly-gained Design Thinking knowledge and experience into the courses she teaches and student research work. She recently introduced Design Thinking techniques to her doctoral student researchers and plans to employ its principles to help students develop research questions and design. She will also be co-facilitating a workshop on Design and Systems Thinking at Saybrook’s Residential Conference.

Learn more about faculty grants provided here.