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 application 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, problem solving, and problem discovery. That’s why the Design Thinking Academy Fellows have an advantage when seeking employment. DT Fellows are talented individuals who use design thinking in their major fields or with special complementary skills:

  • Improvisation
  • Empathy
  • Inquiry
  • Storytelling
  • Prototyping


quote brian walker

Common Questions

How did the academy come about?

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

Where is the academy located?

The academy is based in Allendale and operates in both of Grand Valley's main campuses, Allendale and Grand Rapids. Spaces outside the campuses are also used 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 requirement.

How does the academy work?

Accepted applicants first go through a Design Thinking Deep Dive. They are then assigned to a small team to work on a solution to either a community-based or GVSU-based issue. Each team includes a Grand Valley faculty coach, as well as a representative from the selected organization. Members also participate in a series of session on activities, such as improvisation, prototyping, and more.

What to expect when your academy work is done

Once DT members have completed their projects and participated in a majority of the sessions, they will receive a Design Thinking Certificate of Completion and be deemed a Design Thinking Fellow. This signifies to potential employers that they are experienced in collaboration, problem solving, and innovation.