Innovation and Design minor to launch in 2021

New minor program links together ideas from SIAS, Milgard and the School of Engineering.

UW Tacoma’s Global Innovation and Design Lab is launching a new minor program in Innovation and Design. It is planned to start next quarter and will be open to all majors. Emma Rose, a core faculty member for the GID lab, was able to provide information concerning the minor. 

“The work is primarily with community and industry partners focused on real world problems,” said Rose, who explained what students can expect when they enroll in the minor. “They will learn creative approaches to problem solving and explore design justice to consider how design can intervene in positive ways.” 

The GID Lab encourages all students to apply despite different perspectives. According to their mission statement, the GID Lab hopes to transform communities through “ethical design and inclusive innovation.” 

The minor itself will have five courses, one of which will be taken twice. One planned course in the minor will have students create a portfolio and connect their design experience to their projects and other courses in their major. 

Several members of the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, as well members from the School of Engineering and the Milgard School of Business, contributed to the creation of the new minor. 

Rose, who has a doctorate in Human Centered Design and Engineering from UW Seattle, explained that she thinks of design as both a process and an outcome. 

“When we think of design as a process, it involves thinking deeply about a problem, learning more about the people and communities impacted by that problem, and trying to create and try out alternative solutions to help solve that problem,” Rose said. “Anyone can engage in the design process to come up with solutions.” 

Rose was initially a Creative Writing major in college and was always drawn to combining creative skills with technical ones. This later led to a career in web design and eventually her doctorate. 

“After earning my PhD, I was excited to come to UW Tacoma to teach the subjects I love,” Rose said. “For me, that comes back to an approach to problem solving that brings together creative and technical perspective to work on projects with a social impact. I see many of the same qualities in students who take my classes.”

Krissy Kimura, the program administrator for the Global and Design Lab who will also be the academic advisor for the new minor, had a different introduction to design. 

“My initial introduction to using a human-centered problem-solving approach was as a Health Education Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania — although we didn’t call it design,” Kimura said. “The framework we learned and applied in the field was a Participatory Analysis for Community Action focused on gender-sensitive and participatory techniques.”

The GID Lab has been busy in the past year. They have launched their Global Innovation and Design Award in Fall 2019 with two students. The number of students is based on funding availability. The lab is also involved with the community. 

The Lab team also just recently finished up a project with United Way of Pierce County in their annual From Poverty to Possibilities Summit that took place earlier this month on Nov. 10. The event was attended by over 200 people. 

“Our bias-to-action for the event was to address: ‘Through a lens of equity, trauma, and resilience, how might we reimagine our current systems to support Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed families to overcome poverty?’” Kimura said. “We also hosted a series of design thinking workshops with the Resilient Pierce County team to build empathy, identify barriers to access to human services, and brainstorm initial solutions.”

The GID Lab also launched the Innovate Tacoma series this past summer. The intention is to spark creative problem solving and deliver innovations through the pandemic. Rose further explained how innovation and design can help engage and strengthen communities, both locally and on a global scale.

 “Design thinking provides us an opportunity to take these problems up and think about how to intervene and make positive changes in the world,” Rose concluded.