Project Insights: Co-Creating Identity at University College

University College Team Photo

The Innovation Hub recently concluded its project, Co-Creating Identity at University College, a partnership with University College. The Design Researcher Team reflects on the value of building an evolving identity co-created by its community.

Written by Amar Krupalija, Reese Halfyard, Kimberly Mak, Larry Afun, Yin Chen Wan (Design Researchers) and Eli Rose (Design Research Team Lead)

Our partnership with University College began in the spring of 2022 and sprung from the need to hear students’, faculty, and staff thoughts and experiences with University College, particularly regarding physical space. We aimed to uncover the needs and pain points of students through impactful student consultation, to build a unified identity co-created by the UC community.

We conducted a series of student-led feedback sessions and interviews with UC students, staff, faculty, and alumni. After collecting and analyzing feedback, we discoveredthat there were different understandings of UC’s identity. Our first report established that the future of University College is built on an evolving identity. We then used a co-creation approach to facilitate opportunities for UC students to collectively imagine the future of the college. In this space, students were able to ideate on our previously developed design principles and curate suggestions to improve UC’s physical and embodied community. The UC project taught our team about the importance of collaboration and community when building an evolving identity.

University College Theme Visual

A Dynamic UC Community

Each UC member’s journey may look different but engaging in various conversations is important to finding UC’s identity. Enhancing connectivity between community members plays an important role integrating ideas and perspectives essential for identity formation.

Kimberly: Finding UC’s identity within a multifaceted community felt like a challenging task at the time. However, I have come to realize that finding identity is a journey that involves connecting with people who do not share similar experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds. Being able to engage in difficult conversations and work to build bridges with different individuals are great starting points to invite more people to participate in co-creating identity. Ultimately, co-creating identity within a community is a dynamic and ongoing process that requires open-mindedness and willingness to engage with others.

Reese: Throughout the co-creation sessions, our team identified that students are extremely passionate about the connections they are building at UC and the community they immerse themselves in. The data from our co-creation sessions showed that although there were some mixed ideas about identity at UC, students demonstrated a need and dedication to enhance this development and increase connectivity for all contributing members.  I firmly believe that the co-creation sessions, and these students, will have a resting impact on the dynamic identity at UC.

The unified idea here is that through engaging with students at the co-creation sessions, we were able to better understand the various important perspectives that contribute to UC’s evolving identity.

Team Work Makes the Dream Work

Teamwork is an integral part of success, and we believe the chemistry and cohesion of our team improved our ability to enhance student voices. We noticed the UC community has the same feeling of joy and connection where great ideas can blossom. 

three figures hugging above a cloud

Eli: Those qualities of compassion and support we saw during the UC project, we also saw developing in our own team dynamics throughout the Fall and Winter semesters and really helped us to uncover great insights into what students need from UC spaces. Like the Innovation Hub, UC has established a community where students, staff, and faculty enthusiastically co-create the future of the college.

Larry: I came into the group when they were already halfway between two distinct projects, one of them being the University College project. Yet strangely enough, it felt like I had been present since the projects’ inceptions.. . Under our team lead, Eli Rose, we have worked hard, diligently, and more importantly, we have learnt to have fun in the process. The power of ideation is in the power of working as a team to seed ideas in oneself and in others. It is surreal that it is coming to an end, but I know the bond my team and I have will be one that will be worth remembering.

The common string that runs through both of our experiences is that the team dynamic was strong and fun. This reflected in our passion and effectiveness in the UC project.

Presenting for Impact

3 people with light bulb, gear, star and cloud above

Our presentation was critical in showing how students experience space at University College. Using persona stories helped to humanize the data and show how experiences are shaped and evolve over time. 

Yin Chen: Being so close to the data, I was reminded of how interesting the students’ ideas were when stakeholders showed their genuine excitement when they saw our presentation. It also showed how much UC staff care for the community, who are eager to improve student experiences at UC. Overall, the reaction from the audience makes me feel like our project has created a positive impact. With such a receptive staff team, I am excited to see how the co-creation ideas will impact the UC community.

Amar: I felt as if the final presentation was a great culmination of the project and my time at the Innovation Hub.  It was a moment of reflection for me as I was able to see how far the project has come and how far I have come as a design researcher as well. It was also a great experience to have our presentation go well and get the sense that the UC stakeholders were receptive to our findings. This opportunity to contribute to my community is truly one of the main reasons why I have enjoyed my work at the Innovation Hub so much.

Overall, the presentation was a highlight of the project. It was a great opportunity to reflect on personal growth as well as the development of the project and the impacts it will have.

Co-Creating Identity at University College

The ideas generated by UC students from the co-creation sessions provided the groundwork to co-create the identity of University College. Alongside the UC staff members, we are excited to see how the co-creation process will impact the future of UC. Curious to learn more about our findings? Check out the report to learn about the needs of students and staff at UC. 

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