Program Description & Details

Want to do something really different this spring? Want to make a difference in the community while working every day in a creative, fun environment? Do you want to leave Elon armed to use your liberal arts education, disciplinary knowledge, and skills in problem-framing, problem-solving, and collaboration to make a difference?

An Entire Semester Dedicated to Social Change

The Design Thinking Studio for Social Innovation—Studio for short—is an immersive, interdisciplinary program that will bring together students and faculty from across the university to tackle a real social challenge in Alamance County. In this 12 semester hour experience, students will work with community leaders in government and non-profit spaces to make real social change happen. The dedicated participants in this class will be enrolled in one large course experience instead of four separate classes.

What You’ll Learn

In the course, students will learn about social innovation and systems thinking as you identify social issues within the local community, in partnership with the Alamance Wellness Collaborative. Students will practice design thinking methods, Agile/Scrum project management, qualitative research methods needed to empathize with affected audiences and to truly understand a complex social problem, and creative methods for developing, prototyping, testing, and revising ways of addressing the social problem. Your products will be handed over to the community who needs them the most, and your written, visual, and information design strategies for effective communication of the benefits of your design solutions will ideally lead to long-term adoption of well-tested ideas.

The complex problems facing our world today cannot be solved by traditional thinking. Build the skills you need to make real change in the communities and organizations you care about.


Students participating in the Studio will register for three linked “courses.” While these courses will appear separately on your transcript, you can expect one fully integrated experience for the semester. The course titles are:

  • COR 470 Social Innovation Lab: Applying Design Thinking to Wicked Problems (ELR)
  • IDS 470 Social Innovation Lab: Design Thinking and Social Innovation
  • IDS 471 Social Innovation Lab: Civic Writing and Rhetoric

Full course descriptions are available.

Perks and Transcript Benefits

In addition to the benefits of making change in the community and honing in-demand skills, you will also earn the following toward your Elon transcript:

  • Your required two COR Advanced Studies courses
  • Your required COR Capstone course with capstone project
  • An ELR for service-learning
  • One course toward the interdisciplinary Professional Writing Studies minor (the required capstone)

Sounds Great! How Do I Learn More?

We are looking for adventurous and ambitious students to join us! Contact any of the faculty in the program for more information.

To Apply

Sold and want to join the program for the Spring 2019 cohort? Application details are available here; check it out now for an overview of the simple application process.