Meeting Clients’ Specific Needs

At Mount Vernon, a design brief starts with a creative conversation and culminates in a mutually beneficial relationship, while making an impact. Throughout the process, students in the Innovation Diploma program (iDiploma) exercise their solution seeking muscles in design thinking and human-centered problem solving to create better solutions that meet the specific needs of their clients. Business and community leaders share their dreams and challenges with these highly capable students, imposing a deadline. Then it’s our job to make it a reality. Over the years, we have worked with Fortune 500 companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies to design a park, create marketing campaigns, rethink traffic in Atlanta, curate a museum experience aimed at developing empathy, and make a boy’s lifelong dream of flying in the Millennium Falcon come true. The work performed in iDiploma is conceptualized, created, and executed by the students at Mount Vernon. Faculty and staff are involved when needed for support. Students in the program are provided a unique opportunity to consult professionals, providing customized solutions and tangible results. Hear from three recent graduates who hold two diplomas — one from Mount Vernon and one from iDiploma:

Megan Lienau, Class of 2018 “Design Briefs have allowed me an immense opportunity to pull away the curtain and look out the window. The curtain is the shroud of a confined mindset that plagues high school environments today, the opportunity to step out of these confines and look out that window, looking into the world has freed not only my mindset but informed my daily actions. I have learned priceless life lessons about professionalism, communication, and attitude from working with external partners. I think the impression we have left on those we’ve worked with is that teenagers can produce high-quality work that is valuable to the real world and that a fresh pair of informed eyes can find the solution to any seemingly convoluted problem. The highlights of design briefs, in my opinion, include the intensity of emotion I feel towards my work, and the exciting possibility of meeting a new person who has a wealth of knowledge to share with me. For example, I have never felt more proud than the moment when Peachtree Station was opened to the general public, and I have never felt more anxious than the moments leading up to this year’s pitch to the CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. It is exciting to look back on these moments and know that I shared those emotions with a team of people, all working towards the same goal. In terms of meeting people, each design brief features an intensive empathy based section. During the empathy stage our mission is to truly understand the client and their needs, it has been through these “empathy interviews” that I have formed relationships with our clients and built a network that not only leads to the success of the design brief but adds to the viability of Innovation Diploma and the design brief concept in general. From Jeff Garrison of SJ Collins Enterprises to Sagdrina Jalal of Georgia Farmers Market Association or Paige Kubik of the Frazer Center, design briefs have shown me the importance of building creative relationships with individuals of diverse backgrounds so that the boundaries that divide school and the real world can be blurred by common interest.”

Abigail Emerson, Class of 2018 “ID has helped me in making connections with professionals and grow my network. It’s really cool because when people ask me what I’ve been doing in school, they’re expecting an answer about a school project, but instead, I get to tell them about how I’m partnered with a company working on a project that solves for their needs.”

Maquie Weiss, Class of 2018 “Through my 4 years in Innovation Diploma, I have gone from a straight-lined student to a twisted path, no-straight-shot student. I continue to ask questions that no one thought about, increase my confidence and become a true innovator. This program has changed my thinking in all ways possible and helped me for the better. I will always use the skills I’ve learned from collaboration to solution seeking it’s all part of my world.”

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