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Impact Design group with Colleen
Colleen with her senior design challenge partner
Colleen's impact design partner
colleen's senior design challenge partner

Ah yes, the much-dreaded group work. In high school, I always welcomed the opportunity to work with peers, but felt frustrated when I would end up doing most of the work. As college approached, I started to feel disillusioned with group work and felt that academic collaboration, at least on big, term-long projects, might not be the best route for me.

Well, three years later and it turns out that my absolute favorite classes at Dartmouth have been because of the teams I have been a part of. Without further ado, here are my favorite group projects from college and what they taught me about embracing group work!

  1. Social Entrepreneurship

If you've read any of my previous posts, then you likely already know that I am passionate about social entrepreneurship. Last winter, I decided to really embrace the academic side of this passion by taking a class on the subject. We spent the first five weeks of the term helping us understand what social entrepreneurship is and the types of poverty and inequity-related issues it has been historically used to solve, while the second half of the term was spent working in groups of 2-3 to brainstorm and pitch a social venture of our own. My team and I chose to focus on increasing the financial independence of marginalized indigenous women in Cusco, Peru, and our business idea leveraged the increase of foreign capital in Cusco due to tourism with the existing knowledge and skills of locals. Looking back on this class, I am so grateful to my two teammates who had no experience in Peru yet were excited to share in my passion for female empowerment in South America! The three of us became quite close throughout the process, even realizing that we were all Chinese and Economics majors a few weeks into the project (weird, right?!). Anyway, this class taught me that I do not have to always be the one driving the team. I have a very Type A personality, but my teammates were so on top of it that our project truly did become an equal collaboration among the three of us.

  1. Impact Design

I had no idea what to expect when I signed up for a class on delight, but never did I imagine that I would end up making three great friends through my assigned group work. Impact Design is a Social Impact Practicum, meaning that my group worked with a community partner (in our case the Hartford Autism Regional Program) to create a delightful and educational product/experience for a 14-year old girl with autism. When we were initially given our groups, I was struck by the fact that I did not know any of the three girls I was assigned to work with. However, in working with them and learning from their unique creativity (all three are digital designers), I have grown in my ability to visually represent information, consider user experience for the products I am designing, and leverage the power of storytelling.

  1. Senior Design Challenge

The Senior Design Challenge last spring allowed me the opportunity to work on a project with one of my teammates from Social Entrepreneurship, this time working on an initiative to support the emotional needs of the homeless population in Burlington, Vermont. To kick off the term, our professor had us take an online quiz about our leadership and teamwork styles, sharing these with one another before we had even had our first team meeting. By openly chatting about our past group experiences and the ways in which we appreciate receiving/giving feedback, my partner and I were able to set some group rules that helped us thrive later on. Check out my previous blog if you're interested in learning more about my experience taking the Senior Design Challenge as a junior.

  1. Design Thinking

Design Thinking (ENGS 12) is the first class of the Human-Centered Design minor and was my first real introduction to serious group work in college. What I appreciated most about Design Thinking was that our groups would change for every project (there were 8 projects in the term, four of which were group-based), meaning that I had the opportunity to get to know many of my peers. The group projects ranged from creating a moving rollercoaster for a ping pong ball out of nothing but Foamcore, rubber bands, and tape, building an improved carrying device, creating a video pitch for a technological product that would improve a specific users' daily life, and consulting with a Dartmouth-based organization to brainstorm means for improvement. Plus, our professor chose to set aside a good chunk of class time each week so that groups could give feedback to one another, meaning that my partners and I had the opportunity to share our ideas with another team every couple of classes and use their outside perspectives to improve our project.

Despite being a little apprehensive about group work prior to college, my time at Dartmouth (and especially as a Human-Centered Design minor) has helped me realize just how much I have grown to love working with my peers on large, term-long projects. Next term, I am signed up to take two more group project-based classes, and I am excited to see how my teams stack up against the wonderful groups I have already had the chance to work with these past few years!

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