Mobilizing change 

How design thinking methods moved an institution forward to achieve real general education reform.

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Client Story -
The University of Tennessee Chattanooga (UTC)

Challenge – After unsuccessful attempts to reform an overly complex and dated general education approach, UTC turned to design thinking as a creative pathway to mobilize change. Looking to understand general education through a human/student-centered perspective rather than an operational lens, UTC endeavored to tackle the challenge: How might we refresh general education curriculum to fully realize learning outcomes and enhance student engagement and success? 

Solution – UTC engaged Bridge Innovate® to launch a full-scale design and organizational transformation initiative. Efforts began with deep data analysis to inform the process, build empathy, and spark inspiration, followed by solution prototype design and testing phases. The process concluded with a final set of recommendations to initiative sponsors on learnings and next steps. Throughout the journey, faculty members and leaders from a cross-section of UTC departments were involved and invested in refreshing the approach to general education.

Results - Blending the principles of design thinking with a deeper understanding of organizational change, the overall experience provided UTC with a good foundation on which to build a sustainable system for ongoing transformation, increase faculty buy-in, and enhance student engagement. The transformation process ultimately moved UTC forward in achieving real general education curriculum reform and resulted in actionable decisions, including a Value Rubrics for more effective assessment, to guide ongoing work.


As provost, I recognize and appreciate the thoughtful efforts of our faculty to improve the general education program and fully support the ongoing efforts of our faculty to fully engage students in learning and achieving the essential learning outcomes we value so highly at UTC.
— Dr. George Hynd | Provost | UTC
What I love about design thinking is that it allows people to have discussions without defending positions, and that’s very important for change.
— Dr. Stuart Benkert | Interim Head, Department of Performing Arts
This has been a phenomenal experience. We are learning to be empathy-centered, and that specifically means serving our students first. It forces us to be very intentional and concrete from the very beginning at every single stage in thinking about how to create more opportunities for students.
— Dr. Shewanee Howard-Baptiste | Associate Prof., Department of Health & Human Performance | UTC
I think this is probably as ‘bottom-up’ a process as I’ve ever seen. We’re trying to involve everybody in our discussions and then move forward, recognizing that even once we are ‘done,’ we are never done. We’re going to be continuously looking at how we’re going to make things better.
— Dr. William H. Sutton | Prof. of Mechanical Engineering | UTC