Design Thinking Academy



To create a framework/ structure for focused study and application of design thinking that integrates student learning through high impact activities that contribute to social, civic, and business innovation.


To prepare students as innovative thinkers/problem solvers who contribute/ lead to finding solutions to civic, social, and business challenges of the future.


The Design Thinking Academy offers selected Grand Valley State University undergraduates the experience, application, and credentialing of design thinking to gain an advantage for employment in a complex world. The academy’s collaborative work and community partnerships help organizations and businesses in West Michigan find solutions to challenges they face.

How does design thinking prepare you for your career?

More and more companies are using this philosophy as a core approach to simplifying and humanizing complex business products and services. From the largest global companies to small firms, employees who understand design thinking principles are valued for their innovation and problem solving. That’s why the Design Thinking Academy Fellows have an advantage when seeking employment. D.T Fellows are connected talented individuals who use design thinking in their fields or who have special complementary skills:

  • Improvisation
  • Empathy
  • Body language
  • Storytelling
  • Professional design disciplines


quote brian walker

Common Questions

How did the academy come about?

The academy is modeled after Stanford University’s design school, which is a non-credit program on design thinking for graduate level students. The academy is also a non-credit program and is the first of its kind for undergraduate students.

Where is the academy located?

The academy will operate in two Grand Valley locations, Allendale and Grand Rapids, as well as using spaces outside the campuses in conjunction with community partners.

Who can apply?

The Design Thinking Academy accepts a limited number of undergraduate applicants each year from all majors and colleges. Students are recruited, nominated, or may seek admission themselves. Applicant criteria considerations include G.P.A., college references, and answers to a number of questions including other campus participation and plans after graduation. Prior knowledge of design thinking is not a consideration.

How does the academy work?

Accepted applicants become Design Thinking Academy Fellows. They are then assigned to a small team to work on a solution to either a community-based or GVSU-based challenge. Each team includes a Grand Valley faculty coach, as well as a representative from the selected organization. A number of community and Grand Valley organizations have already expressed interest in collaborating with the academy.

What to expect when your academy work is done

Once D.T fellows have completed their projects, they will receive a Design Thinking Academy Certificate of Completion, signifying to potential employers that they are experienced in collaborative problem solving and innovation.

Page last modified April 13, 2017