Photo headshots of Prof. Allison Butler, Ph.D. (left) and Prof. Kirsten Hokeness, Ph.D.  superimposed over a colorful background
Psychology Professor Allison Butler, Ph.D., Faculty Fellow in the CHBS (left) and CHBS Director Kirsten Hokeness, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Science and Technology (right)
CVS Health sponsors new Design Thinking Summer Challenge
Jul 28, 2021, by Staff Writer

A new Design-thinking Summer Challenge has launched this summer from Bryant’s new Center for Health and Behavioral Sciences (CHBS). The mission of the CHBS is to educate and train the next generation of leaders who are dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of others. Sponsor and client company CVS Health has presented a select group of students with the opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge to a new, human-centered design challenge related to consumer health.

The six students participating in this new summer internship program have all gone through the Innovation and Design Experience for All (IDEA) program — initially as first-year students, and then later five of them as mentors — where they learned and practiced a framework, tools and approaches for innovative problem solving. Now they are undertaking an applied project in a professional setting.

“It represents the best of a Bryant education. It’s interdisciplinary, it’s real-world focused, it’s authentic, it’s important and meaningful work and it’s training students in cutting-edge, design-thinking skills.”

Interdisciplinary team tackles design challenge in six weeks

Guided by Psychology Professor Allison Butler, Ph.D., students participating in the new program also have access to executive mentors from CVS Health to help coach them through the process. Though not a for-credit program, the new six-week internship is modeled on PSY 440, The Design Thinking Process course, an advanced, 14-week interdisciplinary course during which students solve a pressing, human-centered challenge for a corporate client, according to Butler, who co-teaches the class.

Butler, also a Faculty Fellow in the CHBS, points out how the model demonstrates the value of a Bryant education, helping students to be real-world ready by providing them with meaningful pre-professional experiences. “It’s very valuable when they get first-hand understanding on not a hypothetical problem, but an actual challenge that a company is addressing internally.”

Working remotely, the students are scattered around the country this summer and working at other jobs, but are collaborating virtually as a team and with partners at CVS. 

Student participants include:

Cathryn Johnson ’22

Alexa Kelley ‘22

Jenna Knight ’22

Angela LeBel ’22

Willa Norman ’22

Emma McGovern ’23

The students — who represent an array of different majors in business, arts & sciences and health science — bring a rich variety of perspectives and represent what the best design-thinking professionals do as diverse, cross-functional teams, Butler says. 

CHBS Director Kirsten Hokeness, Ph.D., who is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Science and Technology, notes how the interdisciplinary nature of the team and the project aligns with the Center’s mission to foster collaborative solutions to complex problems.

“The challenges of the ongoing global pandemic have highlighted the critical need for multi-disciplinary approaches to identifying and solving problems in the health sector,” she says, adding “this program is an excellent example of how Bryant students are doing that, while also applying what they’ve learned to become global citizens committed to improving the lives of others.” 

Students apply design-thinking skills

Angela LeBel ’22, who majors in Team and Project Management and minors in Psychology and Communication, completed both IDEA and the PSY/MGT 440 course. She says she became interested immediately when she heard about the opportunity.

She adds that concentrating on thoroughly defining the problem first, before jumping to solutions, is a discipline that has opened new ways of thinking for her. “My design-thinking training has really inspired me to think more creatively in my other classes and in the rest of my life, too.”

Emma McGovern ’23, who double majors in Biology and Psychology, plans to pursue a career in health care, and is excited about working in a professional context at this stage of her college experience. Working with the CVS Health executives has been rewarding, she says.

“This program is such a great opportunity,” she says. “I’m able to apply the design-thinking skills to help CVS solve an important health care challenge, and I’m getting to work with highly knowledgeable and experienced people.”

Client CVS Health a longstanding Bryant partner and sponsor

CVS Health, which has partnered several times with Bryant on various projects, has been growing their own human-centered design practices for a number of years, according to Matt Rainone, Director of Creative and Innovation Strategy. He is working directly with Bryant students on this new summer program.

CVS Health sees these interaction points with the University as not only an opportunity to help further evolve the mindset of their own organization, but also as a way to cultivate a talent pipeline, he adds.

“We’re always trying to evangelize human-centered design at CVS,” he says. “And when executives come into these meetings, they often comment that it’s one of the most fun parts of their day. They’re impressed and inspired by this next generation of design thinkers.”

The best of a Bryant education

The design challenge the students are working on focuses on how to creatively empower consumers to take proactive control of and be advocates for their own health.

The work product will be high-level, professional deliverables, Butler says. That the students will have an opportunity to practice and apply the methodology — not for course credit, but to solve a challenge for a client — is tremendous pre-professional experience for them and highlights Bryant’s focus on collaborative learning through team projects and presentations, she adds.

“It represents the best of a Bryant education,” Butler says. “It’s interdisciplinary, it’s real-world focused, it’s authentic, it’s important and meaningful work and it’s training students in cutting-edge, design-thinking skills.”

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