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BCW Member Manhattanville College Opens Center for Design Thinking

Left to right: Manhattanville Interim Provost Louise Feroe; President/CEO of The Business Council of Westchester, Marsha Gordon; Director of Economic Development for Westchester County, Bridget Gibbons; Manhattanville President Michael Geisler; Manhattanville Board Chair Dwight Hilson; Associate Provost for Academic Innovation and Design Thinking at Manhattanville, Alison Carson; New York State Assemblymember, David Buchwald.

Leaders in business, government and education gathered this week to celebrate the official opening of the Center for Design Thinking at Manhattanville College in Purchase. The center is the first of its kind in Westchester and one of the only centers of design thinking at a college.

Manhattanville President Michael Geisler addressed the audience and spoke about the importance of preparing today’s students for the workplace of tomorrow. “Design Thinking is the key to merging the traditional strengths of a liberal arts curriculum with the practical requirements of training a human workforce for tomorrow’s market,” said Geisler. “The workforce of tomorrow needs to be flexible and capable of adapting to changing work environments quickly, a human workforce that can compete successfully against AI and Machine Learning-based programs that threaten to eliminate 40% of existing jobs.”

“Design Thinking trains the very skills that will be most in demand when this generation of students hits the job market,” said Geisler.

“This is an important initiative that brings together higher education and the business community,” said Marsha Gordon, President and CEO of The Business Council of Westchester. “This is a significant step towards aligning what is being taught in college classrooms with the practical needs of businesses.”

Alison Carson, Associate Provost for Academic Innovation and Design Thinking at Manhattanville and the director of the new center explained Design Thinking. “Design thinking is a systematic and creative approach that supports the development of solutions to complex problems,” said Carson. “There is an emphasis on process that encourages the development of several mindsets including curiosity and discovery, empathy, a growth mindset, grit, willingness to take risks, collaboration, creativity, a recognition of learning from failure, and many other characteristics that we know are beneficial outcomes for career preparedness, and life in general.”

President Geisler invited area businesses and nonprofit organizations to use the center as a resource, “Bring to us your challenges, your customer experience gaps, your infrastructure conundrums, your processes in need of improvement,” Geisler said. “We will put our teams of trained design thinking faculty and students to work.” Many of the faculty and staff members at Manhattanville received training directly from IDEO, the San Francisco firm that created Design Thinking.

Several departments at Manhattanville have already integrated design thinking into courses. Manhattanville has integrated design thinking into the Women’s Leadership Institute Lead with Distinction Certificate program. Many offices on campus are also using design thinking to problem-solve. Faculty and staff have also learned from businesses that are using design thinking, including Mastercard, that has offices neighboring the college. IBM, a leader in design thinking, has donated access to their proprietary online design thinking training, “IBM Design Thinking,” to all Manhattanville students.

Manhattanville has also started a Design for America studio on campus, where students learn and apply design thinking to mission-focused issues. Design for America is an award-winning, nationwide network of colleges and communities using design to create impact in the areas of health, education, economy and the environment. There are 35 Design for America studios across the country.

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