See All My Projects

DFA Leadership Studio 2015


Hey All!

The Loft team -- a group of designers, computer scientists, DFA National Staff and learning scientists dedicated to better supporting you as designers, studio leads, and coaches -- is working on prioritizing our newest features on the Loft.

We are seeking your expertise on what you want next! We're looking for a few people to who are interested in co-designing the Loft experience with us.
If you're interested in getting involved e-mail us at />

4 years, 3 months ago

All! We had many requests for our powerpoints to use back at your studios. We have posted the powerpoints from this years leadership studio here!

Stay tuned for a formal recap, it was great working with you all! Really kicked the year off right.

4 years, 3 months ago

Ryan Johnson - When will the pics from LS be up? Trying to create some powerpoints and update our website and could use some fresh new pics!

4 years, 3 months ago

Allison Chen - We'll post pics on facebook tomorrow!

4 years, 3 months ago

Hey everyone, Karishma and I thought it would be easy to create a facebook group so we can all add each other more easily & keep in touch! You can join here

4 years, 4 months ago

Looking for smarter and better teamwork tools? Check out CATME!

4 years, 4 months ago

Robert Calvey - Thanks for the share!

4 years, 4 months ago

Need to find the email address of an important stakeholder?

Rapportive is a Gmail plugin that connects email addresses to LinkedIn profiles. You can guess an email address and if you're right, the relevant LinkedIn profile will pop up:

If you don't know what to guess, a good place to start is:

4 years, 4 months ago

Sami Nerenberg - These are awesome tools! Here is a compilation of tools from the Studio Expo yesterday.

4 years, 4 months ago

Robert Calvey - Thanks for the share!

4 years, 4 months ago
Announcement by Robert Calvey

End of Leadership Studio!

4 years, 4 months ago


Quick reminder to submit your studio tools by 6:00 am Monday August 10 (TMRW MORNING) to share with everyone:

This is a great opportunity for you all to learn about the unique tools that other studios have created - including posters, websites, newsletters, design guides, workshops, leadership training - and possibly inspire ideas to bring back to your own studio. The fidelity of your prototype doesn't matter, we'd just love to hear about the concept.

For example, when I was a studio lead I worked on this Fall 2014 Report at RISD/Brown to share with members of the campus and community: Hope this inspires you, and can't wait to see what you have to share in return!

4 years, 4 months ago

Catherine Chung - Cool! I have a tool to share as well! This is the design books + video recommendations Google spreadsheet we co-created after Midwest Meetup last fall. Super low-key and still super helpful :)

4 years, 4 months ago

Brandon Rivera-Melo - I just added!

4 years, 4 months ago

Hey All!

We are so excited to see all of the studio tools you have to share!

Please submit your tool to THIS FORM by MIDNIGHT TONIGHT!

You'll noticed we've asked you to include:

Name of your tool
Why you created the tool
Tool description
Link to what you'd like printed

Please let us know if you have any questions. Woo!

4 years, 4 months ago
Announcement by Sami Nerenberg

Hey! If you signed up for the Autodesk Workshop on Fusion 360 for today, please download the software here before hand (maybe over lunch?)!

4 years, 4 months ago
Announcement by Sami Nerenberg

See you all TOMORROW!!! We will meet at The Garage at 2311 CAMPUS DRIVE, Evanston, IL at 7pmCT!

Dinner will be served, you'll get to meet your teammates in person, and you'll hear from an awesome keynote speaker, Bridget Brown, who will share her story of loving life as someone with Down syndrome.

Please take 5-10 minutes to fill out this pre-survey so we can measure what the group learns over the weekend. Bring your laptop to dinner if you haven't completed it by then:

Final Tips:

- We just heard that the weekend will be covered by ABC news! Film crews and photographers will be in on Friday, Sunday, and Monday. Dress business casual!

- Want a Travel Buddy? Post to the Forum and share what time you get in and see if anyone is around the same time.

- Check out Google Maps for train directions to The Garage on campus. It's about an hour and a half from O'Hare and Midway. (Note uber does not pick up from the airport, but we hear Lyft might)

- Tell your friends and loved ones that there will be no cell service in the space where we'll be working so they may not hear from you as much (we'll have breaks though!)

Emergency Contact Numbers:
- Sarah Kurland: 440.708.3773
- Sami Nerenberg: 773.610.2260


4 years, 4 months ago

Hey LS participants!

Leadership Studio is only 3 DAYS AWAY! Get excited!

In related news, our recent recruitment phone calls with 3 mothers of children with Down syndrome have given us suggestion to pivot/reframe. During these recruitment calls, we posed the areas of education, health, and communication as the focus areas and got their feedback: these challenges are for children, and they often (but not always!) have ways to handle them well already. Their highest priority concerns for their growing children instead include transportation to work, managing finances, and forming support social groups- all things to do with Independent Living. It’s only a few data points but an insightful bit that has shifted my preconceived notions of priority!

What are you finding with your research? What unchecked assumptions do you still have?

Excited to hear, excited to empathize more!

4 years, 4 months ago

Ooh- a lovely video from a young woman whose sister has Down syndrome "the Happiest Person I know." Worth checking out amidst your online research! Other peeps finding anything inspirational? Feel free to share!

4 years, 4 months ago

Hey, friends! 8 days! What do you want to learn about from other leaders at LS'15? Let us know here:

4 years, 4 months ago
Announcement by Brandon Rivera-Melo

Hey LS participants!

Setting up phone calls or visits with people touched by Down syndrome? At DFA National, we are too! As we plan our scheduled calls and visits with these folks, we want to ensure local organizations feel respected with the asks we make of them. I've noticed some of you are planning on or have reached out to set up calls with some local organizations and their members- props on your proactivity! However, to maintain this feeling of respect, we're proposing the following reach out protocol:

1. First, contact individuals and organizations that may be local to where you are located. Do you have friends, friends of friends, or acquaintances that might know someone touched by Down syndrome? Use your personal network.

2. If you're unable to set up visits or calls with folks in your personal network and you'd like to contact organizations nearby Evanston where LS will be held, reference this list of local organizations that we at DFA National have already asked to participate at LS for story sharing and concept testing and therefore we ask that you refrain from contacting them:

National Association for Down Syndrome
Ups for Downs (United Parent Support for Down Syndrome)
GiGi’s Playhouse
Frankie’s Fund
Family Ideas Network for Down Syndrome
Down Syndrome Support
Celebrate Differences
Kankakee Area Down Syndrome Society
Livingston Area Down Syndrome Society
Central Illinois Down Syndrome Organization
Champaign County Down Syndrome Network
Heart of Illinois Down Syndrome Association
Lincoln Land Down Syndrome Society
BUDS (Bringing Up Down Syndrome)
Riverbend Down Syndrome Association
Adult Down Syndrome Clinic is in Park Ridge

Many of these organizations are sharing the event invitation with their members and staff already.

3. If there is an organization not on this list you'd like to contact, email before doing so. We'll do this to prevent the potential of multiple of our LS teams requesting the same thing from a generous and overextended organization.

4. Keep up the good work!

We're so excited to see your excitement for connecting with these individuals. Can't wait to see all the amazing research you're bringing to the start of Leadership Studio! :D

4 years, 4 months ago

Sami Nerenberg - Hey Everyone! Just as a quick reminder, we look forward to your teams connecting with stakeholders from your community! DFA National has been hard at work establishing connections with those touched by Down syndrome in the Chicagoland area, so no need to contact them as they are likely already involved and it might be confusing to hear from students as well.

Final logistical post coming soon! Excited to see you all!

4 years, 4 months ago
Announcement by Stacy Klingbeil

Hey LS Teams!

Thank you so much to the 14 participants who joined our virtual call last night to go over some important information about the weekend! A few important notes are below. As always, continue posting questions to the forum and we will see you in two short weeks!

PROJECT PREP: The most important component of prep work is to secure a virtual interview to be conducted by your team on Friday, August 7th from 1-2pm CT. This will be during the "Immerse" step of the process and be critical for you to gain a deeper understanding of the project.

PROJECT TOPIC SENSITIVITY: A few important things to keep in mind as we work with this sensitive topic is to avoid labeling. We've learned that many people don't identify as having Down Syndrome. It's also important to focus on strengths of the user rather than challenges. When wanting to learn more about possible challenges, it's important to talk about a challenge you yourself has faced and then ask if that have faced similar struggles. We will talk more about this at LS but start looking into and be mindful as you reach out to users.

AGENDA: The latest agenda is under "Files" Get excited for the opening keynote, the fiesta, skill workshops, project + studio work, etc, etc! Note the career fair on Saturday where you'll be able to network and meet great companies and initiatives. We will post more details about the location as we get closer to the event!

MATERIALS: Please bring your computers for reflections, critiques and studio planning. For those staying in the hotel, it's about a 25 minute walk so comfortable shoes and an umbrella might be necessary.

LOFT: For those who have questions about how to use Loft please see its Help Guide!

4 years, 4 months ago

Hi All!

Just a reminder that the Pre-LS call will be happening TOMORROW, JULY 23rd at 9pm ET / 8pm CT / 6pm PT. One representative from each team is expected to attend. Please RSVP here:

We're going to be hosting an Adobe Connect video conference.
Click this link to connect video:
Enter room with your name: Your Name_LS Team_Studio Name (ex. Rob C_3_Virginia Tech)
Call this number for audio: 847-752-0570
Please enable video cam.
We suggest logging a few minutes early if you can to get the tech set-up.

8-8:10 Introductions and background info.

8:10-8:25 Expectations around LS prep work.
- Tips on navigating this sensitive topic.
- Setting up virtual interviews.

8:25-8:40 Weekend logistics.
- Walking through the agenda for the weekend!

8:40-8:55 Q+A

8:55-9 Wrap up
- Plan to pass info along to team members

4 years, 4 months ago
Announcement by Stacy Klingbeil

Hey LS participants! Sorry for the double email! My name is Stacy, and I'm from DFA National working to support you as you prep for the best four days of the summer. A few IMPORTANT REMINDERS as the event is quickly approaching:

GROUP CALL THURSDAY 7/23/2015 | 9pm ET / 8pm CT / 6pm PT.
At least one person from each LS team should be there to share updates and ask any logistical questions about the upcoming event
RSVP Here:


- All teams should be reaching out to perspective users and stakeholders to schedule an interview during LS. Each team should have 1-3 interviews scheduled! Logistical details can be found in the challenge packet.

- Share your research and process on the LOFT by next Wednesday, July 22nd. Each team is expected to post a "stand" or quick update on progress thus far. Read more about this update on DFA's Leadership Guide:

- Ask questions! We know a lot of this may be new to you so please feel free to post any questions you have to the studio forum.

We cannot wait to kick things off with you!

4 years, 4 months ago
Announcement by Sami Nerenberg

Heyo! If you guys haven't already, be sure to check out this year's Challenge Packet on enhancing the lives of those affected by Down syndrome! It's time for your team to do online research and reach out to users and experts to interview during LS15!

4 years, 5 months ago

Sami Nerenberg - Ooh- this just in… a model with Down syndrome who is taking the fashion industry by storm!

4 years, 4 months ago
Announcement by Sami Nerenberg

Hey Everyone!
As a quick reminder- be sure to book you hotel reservation at Best Western by tomorrow (July 6) to ensure you get our discounted rate!

Those on scholarship do not need to take further action. Those who listed they do not need a roommate are not on our roommate sheet and you are responsible for securing your own roommate or covering the cost of the room in full.

Everyone else can find your roommate and hotel details here. Be sure to mention Design for America for the discount!

4 years, 5 months ago

LS '15 is a gooooo!!! Let the countdown begin!

Have any questions about roommates or teams? Feel free to post your question here:

4 years, 5 months ago

View All

The Design for America Leadership Studio is an immersive experience where over 90 top students from 29 different schools come to Northwestern for 4 days to use human-centered design in a hands-on project, develop creative leadership skills, and prepare for an the year as DFA leaders on their home campuses. Designers and professionals from around Chicago come to support students working on the challenge of improving care for families with children with Down syndrome.

Hannah Chung - Sproutel Jeff - Father Debbie - Mother & advocate
DFALS15 Feedback
Donald Trump's Social Media Team (team 3)
For ideating/brainstorming feedback
We're awesome
DFALS15 Team 18 Feedback Session #1
How can we facilitate opportunities for self-expression in community areas where people interact? How can we support people with DS to create & maintain the best relationships with their employers? How can we encourage positive interaction between children with DS and children without in neighborhoods and schools?
We're awesome