Life Design

Designing Your Sustainable Experience

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Welcome! This post complements the poster, ‘Designing Your Sustainable Experience’ presented at the Johns Hopkins University’s Sustainability Leadership Council’s First Annual Symposium – “Earth Day at 50: Renewing JHU’s Commitment to a Livable Planet”.

The Poster

I was thrilled that the JHUs Office of Sustainability moved the symposium to an online format amidst COVID-19. Below is the poster that I presented.

The next sections offer more information about the content on the poster and interactions comments from the poster session.

Life Design

Photo Credit: Distributed by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans under the Creative Commons License

The framework underscoring this poster was life design.

Life design harnesses design thinking methods to tackle key questions and major decisions surrounding key facets of a person’s life including education, career, and overall life’s ambitions and purpose.

As a Life Design Educator, my goal is to provide opportunities that will help students experience curricular and co-curricular learning, reflect on intersections of their skills and interests, and make informed steps toward their desired career field.

For this poster, I drawed on examples of programming we had done that touches upong 3 specific parts of the process – Empathize, Ideate, and Prototype.

To learn more, check out: What is Life Design?

Empathize – Alumni Talks

Alumni talks have helped illuminate the wide variety of career paths out there that intersect with sustainability. Thus far, we have had small group workshops with alumni from diverse industries that contribute to sustainability initiatives.

Here are a few of the alumni that we have partnered with:

Della Xu

Johns Hopkins University 2019 Alum

Investment Banking Analyst – Power, Utilities, Renewables

Alex Walinskas

Johns Hopkins University 2019 Alum

Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff
The Comptroller of Maryland

Will Cosgarea

Johns Hopkins University 2018 Alum

Sustainability Specialist
Javits Center

Bringing in recent alums helped students feel like the experiences they were hearing about were not so far off from their own. This added a level of empathy that really resonated.

Ideate – Classroom Workshops

ENVS Research Design: AS.271.399

Some of the types of workshops we do occur directly in the classroom. I have conducted in-class workshops for the Environmental Science and Studies program to help students ideate on the vast array of sustainable experiences and projects that they could undertake for their senior capstone project, as well as a potential postgraduate opportunity.

To learn more, check out: Translating Coursework into Research Projects Ideas

Prototype – Student Organizations

Connecting Green

Partnering with student organizations that have interests in sustainability helps us tap into the pulse of the needs and motivations of our students. I recently partnered with the student group – Connecting Green – as they put on their 2020 Panel and Networking Session focused on local sustainable food systems. This event helped students gain valuable information, but also conduct informational interviews – a prototype we highly recommend.

To learn more, check out: 3 Reasons to Reframe a Good Event

Questions from the Poster Session

Here are two of the questions that I received during the poster session (and abbreviated answers):

Is the Life Design Lab different from Career Services?

Yes. We still create content around some of the questions that students would come to a career center for (e.g., resumes, cover letters, interviewing, etc.); however, we do a lot more in helping students figure out what they want out of the collegiate experience and the many ways that could translate upon graduation using a life design framework.

To learn more, check out: JHU Life Design Lab @Homewood

Do you make your content available online?

Yes. We show our work in a number of ways, which include (not limited to):

Closing Thoughts

I admire the JHU Office of Sustainability for persevering and holding this symposium online. There were a lot of moving parts and they did a great job.

The poster session’s format was quite novel. I was in a Zoom room with another presenter (and a moderator). People came in and out (there were Zoom links to other rooms with posters). In total, I presented my poster 3 times (around a 3-minute talk each time) and fielded a few questions.

I had a great time.

Sustainability is important to many of my students and a topic I examine in my own research. I look forward to participating in more sessions like this one in the future and helping students connect with sustainability-focused mentors and experiences in the meantime

Have you thought of pursuing a sustainable experience? Let me know in the comments.

*Thank you to Madeline Amonick for the design inspiration for the poster.

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