Author: Staff

Historic Youth Delegation Attends CEC Council Session in Mexico

In early September, a small delegation from Georgetown attended the 23rd Summit of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s (CEC) Council. The CEC is a trinational organization dedicated to addressing North American environmental concerns. The delegation to the CEC was organized by the Environmental Future(s) Initiative (EFI) and generously cosponsored by the Offices for the Vice President for Global Engagement and the Provost. An account of the delegation’s experiences in Mexico is below.  Continue reading

Experience Institute Founder Victor Saad Visits Georgetown


On September 29-30, Victor Saad, founder of the Experience Institute, visited Georgetown to share his perspective on experiential learning.

Mr. Saad began his visit with a design session for Vice Provost Randy Bass’s course, “Signature Semesters,” challenging students to take ‘leaps’ that emerge from the intersection of their aspirations, inspirations, and assets. Later, he led another design session for Georgetown alumni, asking participants to identify their most valuable learning moments over a lifetime and to imagine how they might use those moments to shape their futures. Mr. Saad brought his visit to a close with a final design session for a diverse collection of students, faculty and staff, where attendees exchanged ideas of how to integrate experiential learning into the formal curriculum, and to measure and account for it as well.

Throughout his visit, Mr. Saad shared his reflections on the founding of the Experience Institute, a center for experiential learning that took shape following a year-long, globally-focused, self-guided master’s program he calls “The Leap Year Project.”

Victor Saad’s visit marked the first event of this year’s Red House Speaker Series, which brings diverse experts—such as Rick Vaz, Gartner Campbell and Nadia Roumani—to the Red House to share their perspective on new approaches to education with our community. Learn more about the other speakers who have visited here.

Stanford Fellow Engages the Designing the Future(s) Community


From February 26th – 28th, the Designing the Future(s) Initiative and the Beeck Center sponsored a visit with social entrepreneur and researcher Nadia Roumani. A lecturer of design at Stanford University’s and the Walter and Esther Hewlett Fellow at Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, Roumani spent her visit to Georgetown meeting with members of the university’s design community. She discussed with faculty how design thinking can inform current and developing Future(s) projects and engaged with the inaugural class of the Board of Regents Future(s) Fellows. During her conversations with Georgetown faculty members, Roumani emphasized that interdisciplinarity and empathy were crucial foundational steps to effective design solutions, and should be integral in the teaching of design to students.  Roumani said that empathy—whether gained through immersion or ethnography—allows a designer to “sit with the messiness” of a problem and better understand a user’s position in a system or landscape, their motivations for navigating it, and the challenges that sparked the need for the new or redesigned product, service, or system.

Roumani has extensive experience as a community organizer, economist, development specialist and social entrepreneur. She served as a Fellow from 2012-2013, where she co-developed the foundational course “Design Thinking Bootcamp: Experiences in Innovation and Design.”

Chad Anderson and Christina Ferguson contributed to this post.

President DeGioia discusses the Future of Learning at DC’s 1776

Georgetown as part of our new partnership with 1776—a startup hub in downtown Washington—President DeGioia spoke at a panel called “Online & Hybrid: The Future of Learning, Anytime, Anywhere” this fall with experts in the EdTech industry. As the only college president on the panel, he discussed the role technology plays here at Georgetown in our on-campus classes, our online programs and our growing set of MOOCs through the edX platform.


Our partnership with 1776 gives students unique access to the tools and community they need to bring their big ideas to action. This partnership complements the ongoing curricular experiments developing at the Red House by offering opportunities for experiential learning.

The partnership builds on other Georgetown initiatives, including Startup Hoyas, which connect students, faculty, and staff to communities of startup activity, including mentorship, corporate connections, media attention, and access to educational classes and events featuring the District’s burgeoning startup community. Under the leadership of Professor Jeff Reid and the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative, in concert with Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, Law Center, School of Continuing Studies, and the Office of Community Engagement, the 1776 partnership represents a truly collaborative venture that brings together our entire community. A wide range of campus organizations, such as the Law Center’s Social Enterprise and Nonprofit Law Clinic, will expand their D.C. community network by participating in these efforts.


You can learn more here about Startup Hoyas, our partnership with 1776 and President DeGioia’s panel on “The Future of Learning.” Stay tuned on for updates about our entrepreneurship ventures throughout the coming semester.

Studio 105: A different kind of ethics class

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“This class is a lot harder than all of my other classes—but it is definitely beneficial. It is rounding out my college education, bringing creativity to a class that would otherwise just be a requirement.”

It’s not an uncommon sentiment in PHIL 105-04, a studio-based course being co-taught by a philosopher and a designer at Georgetown this fall. The course is billed as an introduction to bioethics—moral issues in health, the environment, and emerging technologies—but students are getting a side of design education along with their ethics.

“In the studio setting, students create in order to learn, and learn from the process of creating,” explains professor of philosophy Maggie Little, who is co-delivering the course with designer Arjun Dhillon. A renowned bioethicist and director of Georgetown’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Little is enthusiastic about the multiple intersections between engaged ethics and the practice of design. This semester’s course is being offered as a pilot project in EthicsLab , an initiative by the Kennedy Institute of Ethics to make progress on complex bioethical problems by supplementing traditional approaches with new methods from innovation and design labs.

Students are tackling real-world bioethics projects such as genome sequencing, clinical trial design for ethically complex populations, and informed consent procedures. Two EthicsLab Scholars-in-Residence will contribute their expertise, as visiting instructors and real-world project owners. Spencer Wells, a geneticist and explorer at National Geographic, will work with students to develop a protocol for truly informed consent to having their own genomes sequenced, an option open to every student enrolled in the course this semester. Jason Campagna, an anesthesiologist at critical care medicine company, will work with students on a very real puzzle: how to conduct morally sound research on medical treatments for preeclampsia, a condition of pregnancy that is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality worldwide.

“In studio courses, students are encouraged to fail publicly, and fail fast,” explains Dhillon, who as head of design at EthicsLab brings years of experience in industrial, digital, and experience design to the classroom. Project-based learning is at the heart of the studio method, in which students create tangible objects for juried critique by outside experts several times throughout the semester. Students build bioethics knowledge as they develop resilience, inquisitiveness, and collaborative skills.

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These public presentations, or “crits,” are “the guarantors of project authenticity,” according to Dhillon, because student work is being delivered not just to the instructors who assigned it, but to an audience with diverse areas of expertise. They are an important mechanism for integrating deep engagement with authentic problems and real-world audiences into the core curriculum, an underlying objective of the Studio 105 experiment. The most recent “crit” involved jurors ranging from English professors to instructional designers to comic book experts, who gave candid feedback on student work centered on the meaning of informed consent.

Bioethicists were among the jury members as well, offering a strong reminder of the value of creative and collaborative inquiry oriented around tangible artifacts for a field whose problems arise, and must ultimately be addressed in, the complex and messy reality of real human lives.

This fall’s studio course is designed to do several things beyond its immediate impact on this semester’s cohort.

It represents an effort to broaden the range of options available for teaching practically-engaged ethics to beginners (and beyond) at Georgetown, building a portfolio of innovative pedagogical tools to be sampled and incorporated by other faculty across the university.

It is also designed to test a variety of pedagogical tools and approaches that will form the core of an interdisciplinary course cluster in bioethics slated to debut in Spring 2015. Featuring writing-intensive, philosophy-grounded, and scientifically-oriented arms, the course community will bring diverse groups of students, faculty, and graduate students together to use design as critical inquiry on a bioethics topic.

As part of the university-wide initiative to develop boundary-crossing curricular structures, the Studio 105 class is also feeding discussions about larger-scale curricular shifts, such as a radically interdisciplinary certificate in bioethics for undergraduates and a design-driven MA or integrated BA/MA program in engaged ethics for more advanced students.

“This is a very exciting time to be at Georgetown,” says Little. “University leadership is consistently pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in higher education, and the Kennedy Institute is grateful and proud to be a leading partner these experiments.”

Summing up the Reinventors Series

We recently completed the final roundtable for the Reinventors Series–our six session discussion on the future of higher education that brought thought leaders from universities, the non-profit sector and business together in discussion and debate. As a final recap for the series, we’ve captured some of the key insights and take-aways in a detailed video below. Thanks again to all who have followed and participated in the series this past 12 weeks–we hope these conclusions will spur more dialogue on these issues in the future.

Formation x Design Symposium

The Formation by Design Project held a symposium from June 30 to July 2 to advance a vision and framework for measuring the characteristics and dispositions of whole person learning in a more systematic and integrative way.

Symposium attendees explored different foci of formational learning through short presentations of related work by researchers and subsequent design challenges. These challenges provoked discussion and documentation of ideas on how to define and measure the impact of holistic learning designs that prepare students to thrive in the 21st-century work and social environment, including embodying traits like resilience, empathy, and the ability to innovate and solve complex problems.


The final design challenge produced collaborative project proposals in five targeted research areas. This generation of ideas for pilots and initiatives was one of three major symposium outcomes, including the development of a robust research network on formation and learner analytics and a defined research agenda that contributes to the larger conversation on the purpose and value of higher education.

In addition to solidifying the vision and framework for formational analytics coming out of the Symposium, Formation by Design team members, including Vice Provost for Education and CNDLS Senior Scholar Randy Bass and CNDLS staff members Mindy McWilliams and Alexis Downey, met with Georgetown colleagues in mid-July to develop campus pilots to be implemented in the upcoming academic year. Georgetown constituents will reconvene with the wider international research network in Fall 2014 to continue pushing the agenda forward.

Follow the Formation by Design project on Twitter @formxdesign
Learn more about the Formation by Design project.
Read Provost Groves’ blog post about “Measuring Outcomes that are Difficult to Measure.”

Our Final Roundtables in the “Reinventors” Series

Our fifth roundtable in the Reinvent the University for the Whole Person series, Principles Driving Policy, focused on the intersection of public policy and higher education — asking what type of public policies support an education made for the whole person.

The roundtable was brought many perspectives to the issue, with leading voices from across academic, government and technology sectors weighing in. Former U.S. Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter noted that ideal public policies are those that recognize the complexity and diversity of higher education across the United States. Other panelists, including Georgetown’s Provost Robert Groves, added that the diversity within American higher education also contributed, in significant ways, to the economy and to the democratic process.

Our sixth and final roundtable, Strategies for Organizational Change, asked thought leader to draw upon all that we’ve learned throughout the series and to suggest ways that universities can adapt to better meet the needs we have identified.

Steven Mintz, the Executive Director of the University of Texas System’s Institute for Transformational Learning, argued for the importance of large-scale change– on an institutional or curricular level, rather than just among one or a few faculty members. Other participants noted that change in higher education also depends on the interests of stakeholders — including students, professors, employers and the general public.

These final episodes tied together much what we’ve learned throughout the series, helping to chart out the most promising courses forward for colleges and universities seeking to initiate impactful change in their future.

Stay tuned on the Future(s) website for Vice Provost Randy Bass’s final synthesis about what we have learned – and what we have accomplished – through this series.

Reinventing the University, Sessions 3 + 4

New experts brought our discussion of Reinventing the University to the frontiers of learning in our latest sessions. Our third roundtable—”Next Physical and Virtual Environments”—asked our panel to imagine the type of physical and virtual spaces that would support learning experiences that have the highest impact on students.

José Bowen, incoming president of Goucher College and roundtable anchor, noted that the emergence of tuition-free learning platforms “fundamentally changes the value of what we do on campus.” Bowen and the panelists identified that professors are uniquely well-positioned to become “cognitive coaches”—empowering students to understand how they learn as individuals. To encourage this type of coaching, universities need to create learning spaces that support meaningful student-faculty collaboration, including design labs and nuanced, interactive online platforms. Panelists identified the distinct value of the university in this new ecosystem of learning—its physicality, the availability of experts—which will be critical in defining the path ahead.

The fourth roundtable centered on the “New Metrics” that can give a more accurate picture of learning outcomes—beyond assessing student progress with letter grades.

Curricular design and ePortfolio experts explored the benefit of assessment tools that enable students to take charge of their own learning trajectory throughout their college years. Some panelists, like Ruth Deakin Crick of University of Bristol, asserted that new metrics of student success create an “empowering culture” in which students “learn to learn.” If developed thoughtfully, new tools like ‘digital badging’ can bring student learning outcomes into better alignment with the qualities that future employers seek.

Yet the discussion highlighted the great tension at hand in educating the whole person: while tools are being developed to track personal accomplishments, consensus does not yet exist as to which are most useful—on their own, or as a complement to traditional grading systems.

Check back here on the Future(s) site for more updates on the Reinventors series.

Formation by Design Symposium to be held next week



The Formation by Design Project will host a Symposium from June 30th to July 2nd in Washington, DC, to advance a framework and vision that puts formation at the heart of higher education. The symposium will bring leaders of international projects focused on holistic and integrative learning, ePortfolios, and learning analytics such as Connect to Learning, Bringing Theory to Practice, and Learning Emergence, together with Georgetown faculty and student affairs professionals to investigate the challenges and opportunities of connecting evidence of formation with the power of learning analytics.

The Symposium will establish a shared understanding of formation and whole person learning, and provide fertile ground for conversations about the unknown, the problems yet to be solved, and the questions that bear investigation. Symposium outcomes include the creation of a robust research network on formation and learner analytics, a defined research agenda that will contribute to the larger conversation on the purpose and value of higher education, and generation of ideas for locally-based pilots and initiatives. A series of design challenges at the Symposium will focus on how to define and measure the impact of holistic educational designs on students’ journey toward becoming productive, engaged citizens in this 21st century.