Rachel Ghindea is a graduate architecture student who recently served as an assistant instructor (AI) in Keller's Tiger Challenge summer program. She and design program manager Jessica Leung spent the bulk of their summer guiding students through design thinking processes to help them develop lasting and sustainable innovations. The 10-week experience not only impacted the students but made a lasting impression on the AI as well.

Here are Ghindea's reflections on her experience:

This summer, I had an incredible glimpse into the world of design thinking as seen through the eyes of Princeton undergraduate students. The Tiger Challenge cohort learned to use human-centered approaches focusing on empathy and creativity to design solutions to some of society's most arduous problems. 

This year's cohort is working on innovative solutions for local storm drain devastation caused by climate change, mental health advantages of exploring nature and the arts, and addressing microaggressions toward Asian Americans.

Open to students of all backgrounds and majors, the immersive summer experience allows for diverse perspectives and cross-disciplinary collaboration, essential components to fuel sustainable problem-solving. 

It was fascinating to see how the students expressed creativity in their respective fields and still find the time to bring exorbitant energy and passion to their Tiger Challenge teams. I look forward to seeing how the teams progress in tackling their wicked problems as the program continues through the academic year, and I am curious to see how the students' personal mindsets change and evolve along the way. 

Tiger Challenge is an excellent opportunity for all students, especially those whose majors may not allow for creativity and play. This program is a chance for students to gain innovative skills and experiences using design-thinking methodologies and to have an outside-the-classroom Princeton experience. 

As their AI and as an aspiring college professor, it is my desire to communicate the opportunities the world of design has to offer. These opportunities may include but are not limited to; discovering personal creative abilities, finding a career trajectory that speaks to design interests, working with other people who value creative input, and simply having fun while learning about problem-solving.

My favorite project this summer was the "add a new team member" challenge that we had the students complete on their final in-person day of the program.

Each group was tasked with creating a teammate with personality traits that fill in the gaps of things their team might be lacking.

For example, they may create a teammate skilled at taking meeting notes, one who can confidently cold-call people for interviews, or someone tall enough to place sticky notes at the top of the wall.

The teams not only dreamt up a persona but also physically constructed them out of foam board and the colorful craft materials that we have on hand for prototyping. 

After constructing their new teammate, they had to take their new buddy out for lunch and on a tour around campus. Furthermore, they had to photograph the whole adventure. I was impressed with the students' willingness to step outside their comfort zones. The photos they took were wonderfully fun; each one showed off their team's personality and the perceived personality of their new friend!

I was so proud of the vigor and excitement the groups maintained all day, mainly because this assignment was a little goofy.  

Seeing how these students embraced the design thinking process and watching them use their newfound skills makes me eager to see what this group goes on to do as they continue their Tiger Challenge this coming academic year. However, I am most curious to see what they do after their time at Princeton.

Tiger Challenge is a Keller Center program that uses design thinking methodologies to help students address complex societal issues and build sustainable solutions.