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"Empathy is the Starting Point": Human Centered Design Minor Teaches Problem Solving Through a Human Lens

Oct 27, 2021   |   The Dartmouth

"When considering Dartmouth’s 'must-take' classes, it seems ENGS 12, 'Design Thinking' always tops the list. Over 100 students enroll in the course each year, and over 100 additional students are still sent to a waitlist, according to Engineering professor Peter Robbie, who described the class as 'a foundational course in creativity.' While ENGS 12 is a quintessential course even for non-engineering majors, it also serves as a core course for the human centered design minor, which, according to the minor's webpage, focuses on 'the process of innovation for addressing human needs'..." reports The Dartmouth.

"According to Robbie, Dartmouth is the only school he knows of that offers a formal undergraduate minor in human centered design. Robbie initially conceptualized the program with computer science professor Lorie Loeb, and the pair spent over two years writing proposals until the committee approved the program in Spring 2014. Part of Robbie's motivation for establishing the minor was the popularity of ENGS 12."

..."Robbie stressed that 'empathy is the starting point for human centered design thinking.'"

..."Human centered design's emphasis on the human experience prompts an interdisciplinary pedagogical approach, according to Robbie. Per its website, the minor draws courses not only from engineering, but also from anthropology, psychology, sociology, geography, computer science, film, studio art, public policy and economics.

"'The field is inherently interdisciplinary, because when you're designing for humans, you have to understand humans: human behavior and human preferences and abilities,' Robbie said. 'Social scientists spend their careers developing that knowledge base. So it really is design informed by this kind of special, deep understanding of people in context.'"

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