Student Groups: Design for America
Ask Lucas Yamamura ’14 where he sees Dartmouth’s recently established Design for America studio in three years, and his reply is immediate: “On the cover of The New York Times.”
It’s a vision he shares with Sean Hammett ’14 and Alison Polton-Simon ’14. Design for America (DfA), founded by Elizabeth Gerber ’98, is a national network of student groups focused on making a local impact with creative design solutions. After attending a DfA workshop at Thayer School last spring, Yamamura, Hammett, and Polton-Simon started a DfA chapter at Dartmouth.
“The goal is for people to understand that design is interdisciplinary, it is solving real problems, making real stuff,” says Polton-Simon.
Each of the three co-founders is leading a two-term group design project. Polton-Simon’s group is partnering with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction, Vt., to improve education and employment for veterans reintegrating into civilian life. Yamamura’s group is working to improve dental health for pregnant women. Hammett’s group is working with students at the Richmond Middle School in Hanover to gain insight into sources of and solutions for middle-school stress. “Our focus for the first term is on asking the right questions—not just, ‘how can we reduce middle-school stress,’ but questions with greater specificity, like ‘how can we make a classroom more inclusive, how can we encourage all styles of learning,’” says Hammett.
Dartmouth’s DfA chapter includes students from a wide range of majors beyond engineering, including economics, history, government, and studio art. The founders say they hope to expand DfA beyond the undergraduate level, hold annual innovation workshops, and pursue more projects.
“It’s exciting to know that you don’t have to feel powerless. You can make use of the knowledge you have been accumulating in class,” says Yamamura. “To see the world, to be critical, and to know that you can have an impact—nothing in my day is as fulfilling as this.”