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SGSI 2018: Designing the Professional: Addressing the question, "Once I get my degree, how do I get a life?"

What do you want out of life after Stanford? Wondering how to weave together what fits, is doable, and will be truly meaningful? Join us for Designing the Professional. This course applies the innovation principles of design thinking to the "wicked problem" of designing your life and vocation in and beyond Stanford. We'll approach these lifelong questions using a structured framework of design thinking tools and mindsets, set in a seminar where you can work out your ideas in conversation with your peers. Expect written and verbal exercises, ideation and prototyping methodology, decision making practices and hands on activities in pairs, trios and small groups.

Monday, Sept. 10 – Friday, Sept. 14, 9 AM – 1 PM

(Continental breakfast available at 8:45 AM each morning)


  • Kathy Davies, MS, managing director, Life Design Lab
  • John Armstrong, MA, lecturer and fellow, Life Design Lab
  • Emily Tsiang, MBA, lecturer and fellow, Life Design Lab

Audience & Capacity

Open to all graduate students in any discipline, as well as postdoctoral fellows, if space allows. If oversubscribed, preference given to doctoral students near completion of their degree. Space is limited to 90.


By participating fully in this course, you will receive:

  • A framework for orienting your plans and philosophy regarding career and professional life, and for locating career within life overall
  • An approach to plotting a pathway to meaning-making and success as a professional
  • A basic introduction to design thinking tools and mindsets, which you can apply both to life design and other areas
  • Ideation, prototyping and decision making practices to aid you in evaluating different career paths and multiple careers
  • Practical skills and exercises for investigating alternatives and career "prototypes"
  • A community of your peers with whom to share your ideas and hear how others are thinking about these important issues and questions
  • A draft plan for the first season of your professional life following Stanford


What is it you really want out of the life that your Stanford education is making available to you? Have more questions than answers? Have too many ideas for your career – or not enough? Wondering how to weave together what really fits you, is doable, and will be satisfying and meaningful? Then join us for Designing the Professional. All graduate students are invited from all disciplines.

We apply the point of view and innovation principles of design thinking to the "wicked problem" of designing your life and vocation. Design thinking, innovated at Stanford over the last 50 years, is an excellent tool to use in this context.

The course will include brief readings, writing and reflections, and in-class exercises. The week-long, half-day format gives you an intensive experience to thoroughly grasp the concepts while having plenty of time to reflect and talk with others on how to apply it.

Expect to practice ideation and prototyping methodologies, decision making practices and to participate in hands on activities in pairs, trios and small groups.

The course is taught by members of the Life Design Lab, led by Kathy Davies, MS Design and Managing Director, Life Design Lab.

Past participants who took this course said the following about their experience:

“It was a really great course and got me to think about things in a different perspective that I would not have on my own.” -SGSI 2017 Participant

“...this course has had a substantial positive impact on my outlook of life and career.” -SGSI 2017 Participant

“...the content itself was thought provoking and insightful.” -SGSI 2017 Participant

Additional Course Expectations

  • As part of this course, about 1-3 hours of work per day outside of class is expected to complete readings and reflective exercises.
  • Full attendance is expected.

Note: This course was derived from an intensive version of the same curriculum as taught in the popular ENGR311B - Designing the Professional.

SUNet ID required to log in; all SGSI correspondence sent to your Stanford email account.

Resource Type: 
Course or Workshop
Target Audience: 
All Graduate Students
Time Commitment: 
Learning Experience: