The Global Innovation and Design Lab: A Hub for Problem Solving

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Using design thinking -- founded on ideation, prototyping and testing -- a new program will leverage campus and community resources for local and global solutions.

A new initiative at UW Tacoma, the Global Innovation & Design Lab, will bring together faculty, community resources and students to create a hub for problem solving using the principles of design thinking.

“The Global Innovation and Design Lab will serve as a foundational program at UW Tacoma and is designed to reach across all campus schools and units,” said Executive Director Dr. Divya McMillin. “Who hasn’t felt the thrill of discovery, of finding a solution that works for everyone? The Lab will support that spirit, and will provide the infrastructure to catalyze collaborative, sustainable solutions.” She will be joined in the creation of the Lab by Dr. Emma Rose and Dr. Huatong Sun of the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, Dr. Eugene Sivadas of the Milgard School of Business, and Dr. Josh Tenenberg of the School of Engineering & Technology.

Timothy Bostelle, head of information technology at the UW Tacoma Library, demonstrates a 3D printer at a Global Innovation & Design Lab welcoming event in the future Makerspace.The Lab will provide an interdisciplinary curriculum built on design thinking, an approach that prioritizes the human experience through an iterative process of ideation, prototyping and testing. It will feature workshops for campus and community and provide the basic infrastructure for prototyping of innovative products. Design thinking has been widely embraced by practitioners, researchers, entrepreneurs, and activists as the driving force for innovation and transformation towards social good. Most notably championed by Stanford University’s d. School, design thinking itself is inclusive and accessible, allowing adaptability for UW Tacoma’s urban serving mission.

The Lab is supported by generous launch donations from Tacoma’s Bamford family, and will add to the already-strong connections UW Tacoma has to communities regionally and beyond. It will work closely with other programs, including the Office of Community Engagement, directed by Dr. Ali Modarres, the Center for Business Analytics, directed by Dr. Haluk Demirkan, and VIBE, UW Tacoma’s entrepreneurship program, directed by Thomas Kuljam, and will build upon the resources of the Institute for Global Engagement, which McMillin also leads. These units all serve as entry points for community engagement at UW Tacoma.

“The Lab will focus the knowledge and creativity already present on and off campus into solutions to real-world challenges at local and global scales,” said McMillin. “It will facilitate the integration of creative problem solving into teaching, research, and community engagement.”

In 2019, the Lab, in partnership with the UW Tacoma Library, will activate the Makerspace, a facility on the ground floor of the newly-renovated Tacoma Paper & Stationery building. McMillin and her colleagues envision the Makerspace to be equipped with supplies and technology for users to move from ideation to testing. Helping to staff the Lab in its startup phase is UW Tacoma alumna Bronwyn Clarke, who, after finishing her UW Tacoma degree in politics, economics and global engagement in 2016 (and receiving that year’s UW President’s Medal), recently graduated with a master’s degree in comparative social policy from the University of Oxford, England.

Written by: 
John Burkhardt / January 31, 2019
Photos by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or