In 2013, Georgetown launched an integrative initiative, Designing The Future(s) of the University, to engage the entire university community in an exploration of issues facing higher education and to actively experiment with new ways to deliver Georgetown’s signature education. 


“The public good that universities provide is in danger of falling victim to social and technological change”, Georgetown President John J. DeGioia said during the launch. “We need to emerge as strong advocates for higher education as a public good,” he said to an audience of students, faculty and staff. “… We have to realize that education is more than dumping skills in students’ laps and laptops. The knowledge that we are committed to discovering and sharing comes about when students, scholars and the broader public are mutually engaged in their different but reinforcing ways.”


So why is Georgetown pursuing this initiative now? 


As described in their Designing The Future(s) website, they see that the forces transforming higher education have been building. In a landscape shifted by globalization and technology, universities face urgent questions of cost and value, quality, flexibility and relevance. Rather than responding to these disruptions by narrowly focusing on preserving who we are, we must act with purpose and vision—we must treat our future as a challenge of design, creativity and imagination. 


In this new framework, we can better foster scholarship at the frontiers between disciplines, we can make higher education more accessible, we can enrich our classrooms, we can give our faculty the opportunity to share their expertise more broadly, and we can be one of the universities that determines how we all can meet the challenges and maximize the opportunities of this unique moment in higher education.


Designing The Future(s) initiative allows Georgetown to be proactive toward potential disruptions of higher education by treating the question of the future of higher education as a design challenge. 


Accordingly, in 2014, Georgetown announced the launch of two sets of experimental pilot projects. Both are degree-level projects focused on depth and quality of student learning, as well as reducing and controlling costs of higher education through creative curricular designs.


“It’s our time to define the Georgetown of the future … We want to identify creative ways—new packages, new educational programs—that use our creativity to address some of these challenges …” said Provost Robert M. Groves.


While these exciting experimental pilot projects are in currently progress, Designing The Future(s) is also engaging the greater University community in building a vision of what a Design Entity in general might look like at Georgetown. 


To do so, they invited me to support them by Graphic Recording a meeting aimed at creating consensus amongst participants from across the University, where we agreed upon: a definition of design at Georgetown University, what a Design Entity at Georgetown could be and do, a landscape of current pilot projects underway, how they will measure success of the pilot projects, and what resources would be necessary to establish such a Design Entity at Georgetown.


For this project, I created 2 murals for each of their five questions. Participants did their brainstorming work on one mural while I did a concurrent Graphic Recording of the dialogue that swirled around the room as the group was guided through the entire process by Vice Provost for Education, Randy Bass.


It was an ambitions amount of material to cover in the first meeting, but we made great progress. In large part because the participants were actively engaged, as you can see from their creativity in the final “resource needs” mural. 


This was the first of what will likely be a series of meetings as Designing The Future(s) rallies the entire University community around collectively creating a Design Entity that will inform and support the re-design of higher education at Georgetown.

It’s a very exciting initiative that I look forward to continuing to support with Graphic Recording and Graphic Facilitation, and perhaps a Studio Mural to summarize the results. 


But meanwhile, one of the best parts of this kickoff event was being in a room full of amazing folks who’ve never all been in a room together before this day, and guiding their process of engaging in the powerful, exciting energy of creating something new. That in itself is the beginning of a Design Entity!


I always love to hear your feedback, so do share your thoughts and ideas in a blog comment (below) or on social media.




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