Center for Design Thinking

Center for Design Thinking

Building the Future by Design

Learn to approach even the most difficult problems with the mindsets of design thinking at The Center for Design Thinking (CDT) at Manhattanville. The CDT is located in the picturesque former President’s Cottage and is open to all students for independent study and design thinking classes. Three floors of state-of-the-art classrooms are all equipped to encourage collaboration, featuring large worktables, whiteboards, projectors, and computers loaded with design software. The Center for Design Thinking offers courses and workshops for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as services for corporations and non-profit organizations. Undergraduates can now even earn a certificate in design thinking. The Center also includes a fabrication laboratory, known as the Fab Lab, where students can make prototypes using 3D printers. 

Learn About the FabLab   Certificate in Design Thinking

What is Design Thinking?

Complex problems need innovative solutions - that's where design thinking comes in.
Students at the Center for Design Thinking

It all starts with Empathy

A systematic and creative approach to problem-solving, design thinking starts with empathy and uses collaborative and participatory methods to understand problems and achieve complete solutions. It’s the prevalent thinking you’ll find among today’s top businesses and nonprofit organizations, and it fits well with Manhattanville’s mission to help students obtain marketable skills while learning to become ethical and socially responsible leaders.

At Manhattanville College, students of any major can study design thinking to incorporate its principles in any discipline and learn to become positive, creative changemakers both on campus and off. They also have the chance to immerse themselves further and earn a Certificate in Design Thinking.

Human-centered design emphasizes the notion that we need to fully and wholly understand the people for whom we are designing.

This is accomplished through the first step of design thinking: EMPATHY.

Empathy includes collecting information from and about the people you are designing for through interviews and observation, among other methods.

Design thinking prototypes


Developing empathy for your users means that you develop an understanding of their needs, goals, motivations, experiences, and perspectives.

Through a deep understanding of your user, you are also checking assumptions that you might have about the users and the problem that you are working to solve. This is also where we find our INSPIRATION.

Developing empathy is key to the generation of new insights and lines of inquiry around the problem. Empathy allows a designer to clearly DEFINE the problem at hand. Once the problem is clearly defined, we can begin to IDEATE and develop a set of wide possible solutions.

With several possible solutions, now, one needs to focus on one possible solution and develop a PROTOTYPE. Prototyping helps the designer think more fully about the details of a possible solution. Low fidelity prototypes can then be TESTED on potential users to gain further insights and learning about this possible solution.

Design thinking is an ongoing iterative cycle using rigorous methods of research to understand your users and test your prototypes for deep learning and understanding.

Meet the Design Thinkers

Design thinking in practice: Meet the faculty and students teaching, learning, and practicing at the Center.
Alison Carson speaking at a Design Thinking event.
Associate Provost for Academic Innovation and Design Thinking and Director of the CDT

Alison Carson, PhD

"More industries — from tech services to retail chains are gravitating toward Design Thinking because it provides clearer insight into the needs of their customers. Manhattanville College is proud to be preparing our students for this revolution in thinking which will impact all industries in the future, as well as the future of education."

Headshot of Justine Capalbo.
Assistant Professor of Communication and Media, and Director of the Fab Lab

Justin Capalbo

At the Fab Lab Professor Capalbo uses project-based learning to foster a community of makers and develop the technical skills to bring students' ideas to fruition. In his Introduction to Making course, students explore 3D modeling, design, and aesthetics through simulated clients and real-world problem-solving.


Carleigh Brower at Center for Design Thinking
How might we make students feel included at Manhattanville?”
Carleigh Brower, Director, Andrew Bodenrader Center for Academic Writing and Composition
First-Year students explore the College's history and what their place is within the College, and its mission. Professor Brower uses design thinking to explore important issues such as inclusion. 

The Sara Little Turnbull Endowed Scholarship in Design

Kaelei Lewis
You really feel like you’re making actionable change because you’re working with people who actually want to make those changes.”
The Sara Little Turnbull Endowed Scholarship in Design is awarded to an exemplary student (minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0) who has distinguished themselves in design and has shown a high level of interest in Design Thinking. The recipient is selected in accordance with the values of the Sara Little Turnbull Foundation, which is committed to inspiring curiosity, supporting diversity, and advancing underrepresented youth in design fields. 

“I really enjoyed how it’s so interdisciplinary and you get to work with a lot of different departments on campus. I also liked that as you’re working with the clients, there’s an observable need to help out your peers and classmates more than you would with any other program. You really feel like you’re making actionable change because you’re working with people who actually want to make those changes.”

In 2020 the Foundation awarded the Manhattanville College Center for Design Thinking a $50,000 grant for the Design Scholars Program, establishing the Sara Little Turnbull Endowed Scholarship in Design. Manhattanville College has included design thinking as part of its foundation for a 21st-century liberal arts education.

...for the first time, they thought about curriculum as a tool that is ultimately used by students.”
Gerald Ardito, DPS, Associate Professor of Science and Computer Science Education
  For the past two years, I have been inviting Dr. Carson to my education classes in order to expose my students, who are teachers and teacher candidates, to the key concepts of Design Thinking. As they and I engaged with DT, the conversations turned organically to thinking of curriculum as a product of design. Many of these teachers and teacher candidates reported that for the first time, they thought about curriculum as a tool that is ultimately used by students. They were particularly engaged by seeing the units and lessons they were developing from the students' perspectives.  This insight has had a large impact on how they think about and engage in curriculum design, and I look forward to this work continuing.  

Inger Stapleton at the Center for Design Thinking
I am incredibly proud of my students and the way they incorporate the concepts of design thinking into their business plans to set their startups up for success.”
Inger Stapleton, Adjunct Professor of Business Management
A writer, teacher, and entrepreneur, Prof. Stapleton teaches her students how to develop businesses with their customers in mind. 

The programs and initiatives of the Center for Design Thinking are made possible, in part, by the Class of 1967 President’s Endowed Fund for Excellence.



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