Announcing Our 2018 Design A Better Future Scholarship Awardees!

Over the last 6 years of running this scholarship, our program has evolved from an essay contest, to a multimedia project, to now a 3-round Design Thinking community improvement project. We can say with confidence that this year’s application process has been the most ambitious yet!

We certainly asked a lot of our 2018 applicants: a full project proposal, an artifact or prototype, and a final reflection including video. And we have been inspired by the determination of these students to strengthen their communities in diverse ways. While it was extremely difficult to make the final decision, we are very pleased to announce our final awardees are as follows:

Bryan Banuelos: Warrior Dream Program ~ Our top awardee who will receive an additional $5,000 toward another iteration of his project

Austin Fitzgerald: MindStrings free violin tutoring for low-income students

William Rand: OHBreathe wellness workshops at his school

Alexis Showalter: CyberCitizens tech class business for seniors

Isaac Stone: Invisible Cane device to assist the blind to navigate surroundings

Full details on their projects will be published on our Past Winners page within the next few weeks. Thank you to all the schools and administrators that helped spread the word on our scholarship, and thank you to every student that applied! We wish you all the best in your future endeavors!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

We Need Design Thinking: Another More Serious Iteration of My Design Thinking Project

We need design thinking. This has been a concept we’ve promoted here through our scholarship this year — and we’ve been astonished at the projects students have submitted to improve their communities.

Through my own “Design A Better Future” project, just how much we need design thinking has been reinforced in a rather tangible manner.

As I have begun volunteering with our local bicycle committee, I have been amazed at the many ways other volunteers have made an impact on our city. But despite progress, it is with great sorrow that I learned a teen I used to teach was recently killed while crossing the street in my old neighborhood.

This tragedy has strengthened my resolve to contribute however possible. As I work toward clarity and purpose, I have found myself yet again on another iteration of the design thinking cycle, this time with my commitment toward better design. Here’s what it currently looks like:

Look, Listen, & Learn:

As I have renewed my research efforts, I have sadly uncovered direct opposition to design when it comes to taking measures to make room for all people using our streets.

For instance, last summer a local paper ran a report with the tone that pedestrians “assuming right-of-way” are foolishly getting themselves hurt and killed:

“UDOT director of Traffic and Safety, says 94 percent of crashes are a “behavior decision,” not a road design. None of it matters if pedestrians don’t take advantage of safety features or if drivers are distracted or blow past them.” (Source)

Yet in the wake of this tragedy, a common response has been a demand to know more about how design can improve that road’s safety. Residents of the neighborhood even state that far from serving them, the surrounding roads have functioned as walls, compelling them to drive rather than walk even 2 blocks to the local rec center to stay safe.

This has led to more in-depth investigation into Complete Streets policies, one of which is currently being considered in my city.

Ask Tons of Questions:

  • What do Complete Streets mean?
  • What do Complete Streets not mean?
  • What are the costs of Complete Streets policies?
  • What are the obstacles in designing roads that permit all people to freely and safely navigate their communities (not just bicyclists, but pedestrians, people in wheelchairs, children on scooters, etc.)?
  • What has been the impact of Complete Streets in other parts of the country?
  • How do Complete Streets impact local economies, in addition to health, safety and environmental factors?

Understand the Process or Problem:

In response to my many questions, my research has been expanded to a more in-depth understanding of Complete Streets, including these informative videos from Streetfilms:

“It’s extraordinarily important that we find ways to make our communities more accessible to all the people that want to use them, and allow for kinds of transportation that are more sustainable in the long-run.” (from above video)

Benefits of Complete Streets I’ve found include (but are not limited to):

  • Cost effectiveness:
    • Provides long-term savings as it avoids the need for expensive retrofits later on.
    • Many small road improvements that make a big difference come at little to no added cost.
    • “allows for an efficient and optimal use of limited resources: time, fuel, land, public health, the environment, and money.” (source)
  • Safety:
    • Complete Streets have been found again and again to decrease injuries and deaths (source).
    • Protects the most vulnerable of society (children, the elderly, people of color, and the disabled), thus addressing issues of equity (source). 
  • Quality of Life:
    • Encourages healthy active transportation, walkability, and even a sense of community as people have options to travel on more attractive, pleasantly landscaped areas.
    • Gets residents out into their neighborhoods more often, promoting both exercise and social connection (“Complete Streets Help Create Livable Communities“).
  • Vibrant local economies:
    • Increases home values
    • Provides “green dividends” that allow people more money to spend elsewhere
    • Improves access and foot traffic to local business (source). (During a test ride for a new local bus system, transit co-vice chair Sherrie Hall Everett commented, “[Though the road is still] under heavy construction, and many have been concerned about the sidewalks being narrower…what I didn’t anticipate was how much more I noticed the stores, how much closer they felt and related to the street. I noticed the windows and what was going on inside and felt more of the energy of their presence”).
  • Public transit improvements: 
    • Considers how many people have access to bus stops from their homes.
    • Improves comfort and convenience of stops, speed of service, and measures that lower congestion. (source)
  • Environment:
    • addresses pollution through a combination of more active transportation, better public transit, and lowered congestion.
    • allows people to complete trips (39% of which are three miles or less in metropolitan areas) in a zero-emissions manner (source)

More importantly for the context of our local concerns, I have also uncovered some important facts that debunk notions that it’s not about design. These I have turned into graphs, which has lead me to…

….Navigate Ideas:

The most important finding is as follows: on average, 45% of bicyclists and 50% of pedestrians in the last decade had no contributing factors in the crash, a figure that has been on an upward trend. This means that even when they’re doing everything right, a significant portion of people who are walking and biking are still getting hurt.

https://highwaysafety.utah.gov/crash-data/utah-crash-fact-sheets/
Source: https://highwaysafety.utah.gov/crash-data/utah-crash-fact-sheets/ & https://highwaysafety.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2015/02/UtahCrashSummary2010.pdf

Furthermore, pedestrian deaths and injuries have been on the rise in my state over the past 10 years. 

Create a Prototype:

In this case, the prototype was an event where I attended and voiced some of what I shared above; our city Planning Commission met to review a proposed Complete Streets Policy for our city, along with feedback shared by another city department that seemed less than supportive of the policy. Below is a clip beginning with a moving response from one of the commissioners, Jamin Rowan, after hearing from all the community members and reading the other department’s feedback:

“It is time we demand to revisit those standards…It is not an amendment in our constitution to be able to get in your automobile and travel down the road as quickly and conveniently as possible. Our society and culture has operated upon that assumption. It has become a de facto amendment and I’m tired of it. And I think the people that we’ve heard from tonight are tired of it…I’m not in favor of defending old codes instead of defending the vision that’s outlined in this [Complete Streets] policy…Streets are one of our most valuable public spaces…This is one to fight for and not let it get watered down.”

Highlight & Fix:

Mainly, I learned that I should write down my talking points before making formal presentations. I plan to do so for the next phase of the design thinking cycle…

…Launch to an Audience:

Next week, I’ll be presenting to our City Council members.

I’m looking forward to continued iterations of this design thinking process. I hope to convey a strong sense that the quality of our communities and of our very lives depends on good design.

 

 

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

More to read:

4 Ways Utah is Dealing With Overly Wide Streets

4 Reasons We Must Build Our Streets For People (not just cars)

2017 Scholarship Awardees

The time has come to announce the 2017 multimedia scholarship winners!

The Winners:

  • Creative Writing: Chloe O’Donnell
  • Music: Caroline Guske
  • Video: Sunny Turner
  • Art: Joshua Hineman
  • Photography: Matthew Zarrelli

Each prize consists of a $1,000 check to their college in their name. To see their beautiful work, visit our Past Winners page!

The Stats

This year’s submissions came from 44 states. 75% of our applicants were female, and 40% were in the creative writing category. 93% of our applicants were high school seniors.

If You Didn’t Win:

Try again next year! Watch for the 2018 scholarship requirements this summer!

Please know that it was not easy to decide on our awardees this year. We were amazed and moved by the passion and talent that you shared with us!

Thank you everyone for your participation!

Examining Learning vs. Education: Introducing the 2017 HGU Scholarship

Ownership over learning. My favorite element of 21st century education. It stands for much of what has often been missing in the history of formal schooling: encouragement to pursue personal meaning, challenges to take risks, empowerment to share a voice.  As I carefully selected this phrase in one of last year’s prompts, I hoped to witness some of these moments of authentic student ownership through our scholarship’s five creative mediums.

Though the efforts of last year’s applicants were inspiring, authentic, and reflective, it quickly became clear to me that this notion of true ownership over learning is still a mirage for too many of our students. Too many have been trained to believe that ownership is simply working hard enough for the grade, or otherwise looking outward for the measure of success.

But with companies like Google completely abandoning typical hiring standards like GPAs since they have found no correlation to successful employees, and other companies looking for digital portfolios instead of resumes, the traditional model of schooling is quickly becoming less relevant. As Josh Bersin, Founder of Bersin by Deloitte stated:

“Companies want someone who thrives on challenge [and is] willing to learn something new.  [They want] a seeker of information, willing to adapt. If you’re the type of person that wants to be told what to do, you might be a straight A student. In fact you might even be a better student than the other type of person.”

And of course, it’s really much less about what 21st century companies want, and much more about cultivating personal authenticity. It’s just that fortunately, it seems the world is starting to recognize the convergence of the two.

So instead, for this year’s scholarship, we’re asking students to examine the issue themselves. The 2017 prompt is as follows: Represent your views about the concepts of education vs. learning.

It is my hope that it will encourage greater reflection and dialogue on what matters most during the many years we invest in formal schooling.

For additional information on our 2017 creative multimedia scholarship, see the overview here (note the graphic at the top–for someone with a longstanding awkward relationship with creativity, I’m grateful for opportunities for growth like these as I try to lead out in pushing my comfort zone), and detailed FAQ’s for each medium here. It is available to high school seniors and college students with at least one year left of school, and has a deadline of April 16, 2017.

Finally, my reflections from last year’s participation have prompted me to also share a list of some do’s and don’t’s. These are meant to help promote the creativity, rather than to impede it (not to mention, to make sure that we will actually be able to review your submission)!

DO:

  • Do have a great time expressing yourself through your medium! The joy always shines through!
  • Do double/triple-check the sharing settings so we can view your file. There were quite a few that we could not evaluate last year because of this.
  • Do choose a creative title to help your piece stand out and to do it justice!

DON’T:

  • Don’t try to force a medium for your piece that isn’t a natural fit (ie, submitting a video that is really just you speaking would be better suited as a written piece).
  • Don’t submit a random assignment from a class. The lack of meaning and connection to the prompt is always apparent.
  • Don’t submit a formal ESSAY! This is a creative, multimedia scholarship. The creative writing medium is for creative pieces, including short fiction stories, poetry, screenplay/scripts, monologues, etc.

2015 Scholarship Awardees

The time has come to announce the 2015 multimedia scholarship winners! The winners have been emailed, and once they accept their award, we will begin the process for sending out each $1,000 prize.

The Winners:

  1. Art: Ashtyn Berry, accepted
  2. Music: Blake Bogenrief, accepted
  3. Video: Isiah Bowie, accepted
  4. Creative Writing: Diamond Patrick, accepted
  5. Photography: Moriah Yeh, accepted

Each prize consists of a $1,000 check to their University in their name. To see their beautiful work, visit our Past Winners page!

If You Didn’t Win:

Try again next year! Watch for the 2016 scholarship requirements this summer!

Please know that we were impressed with the passion and creativity displayed in so many of the entries!  If you would like to know your piece’s evaluation and why you didn’t win, send mary@honorsgraduation.com an email!

Thank you everyone for your participation!

Featured Image CreditRhian Tebbutt Photography

2014 Scholarship Awardees

The time has come! June 17th, the day we announce! The winners have been emailed, and once they accept their award, we will begin the process for sending out each $1,000 prize.

Behold, the Winners:
  1. Christine Lee, accepted
  2. Anderson Vereyken, accepted
  3. Jamie Lagman, accepted
  4. Tory Rose Full, accepted
  5. Nakoma Ehrhart, accepted

Each of their prize is a $1,000 check to their University in their name.

If You Didn’t Win:

Try again next year! This time we’re opening the prompt to multi-media endeavors to give people of all creative backgrounds a chance.

If you would like to know your score and why you didn’t win, send brittany@honorsgraduation.com an email!

Thank you everyone for your participation!

Featured Image:

Colink.