Born of ambiguity itself, with an internship posting made of more questions than answers, UA Design Lab launched in 2019 with 12 interns willing to learn together. Interns learned and applied creative problem solving skills, like design thinking, to challenges presented by campus and community partners. One was UA Global, the unit that leads the international vision of the University of Arizona.
Caitlin Hooker, along with five other student interns, including Vanessa Ojeda-Gomez, took on their first challenge: to understand what students want and need from a new global space that would help foster community for those far from home.
“I was really nervous at first because I was like, what am I doing?” says Caitlin Hooker, sophomore creative writing major. “It was a new process for me, much more professional than anything I’d done before.”
To address their design challenge, the team gathered student feedback through one-on-one interviews, focus groups, and talking with students on the UA Mall.
“We had a gap in our capacity,” says Erin Chadd, Director for Special Projects at UA Global. “The design interns not only increased our capacity to get the feedback we needed but added important student voices that might otherwise be missing.”
Along the way, the team uncovered other insights as well.
“The process opened doors for me and the team to be more open-minded and allowed for everyone to bring their perspectives to the table,” says Ojeda-Gomez.
At the end of the semester, the students presented their data and findings.
“We wanted that different angle and it really made a difference,” says Chadd from UA Global.
While the end result was useful for UA Global, the real benefit came through the process itself.
“Design Lab helped me identify the skills I had and push them one step further,” says Hooker. “It helped me see that the skills I was learning in my creating writing courses could be applied elsewhere. There are so many other ways I can be creative.”
The students also experienced a new comfort level with ambiguity.
“Design thinking has helped me roll with the punches, especially with the unknown,” continues Hooker. “Before, I would feel anxious and just shut down. Now I process ambiguity differently.”
For Ojeda-Gomez, embracing ambiguity led her someplace she didn’t know she wanted to go.
“Ambiguity is okay. It doesn’t mean that you failed. It’s allowed me to start thinking about what else I want out of my future. If it weren’t for this experience, I never would have discovered my love for education. It changed my whole life; it’s made me confident in ambiguity and the unknown, whether it’s taking risks in my future career or just in my personal life.”
Join the UA Design Lab
UA Design Lab is currently accepting applications for Spring 2020. This is not your typical internship. In this position, you get to call the shots while working on real projects with campus and community partners. Do you have a passion for learning and sharing your skills to solve problems? Take advantage of this opportunity to grow alongside like-minded individuals from across campus. If you're ready embrace the ambiguity and challenges of today and tomorrow, we want to work with you!