Re-Imagine UCollege

Re-Imagine UCollege

with University College at Washington University in St. Louis / 12 months

Higher education can open doors for economic mobility through credentials, skill building, and networks. But for too many working adults in the St. Louis region, completing their degree feels out of reach.

Responding to the new chancellor’s call to be “in St. Louis, for St. Louis”, University College identified an opportunity to reimagine a new school for professional advancement and community education – with an emphasis on serving people of color, women, and others who have been historically excluded from higher education.

The project team for Re-Imagine UCollege included a team of seven students. Read more about their experiences.

Process + Outputs

  • Collaboration: PDB, with support from a student team drawn from across the University, facilitated the participation of UCollege staff and faculty throughout the process. 
  • Engagement: The team learned from over 50 local leaders and current and potential students through one-on-one, exploratory conversations to understand opportunities, needs, assets, barriers, and motivations. We paired this deep qualitative research with a review of local, regional, and national reports on workforce development and the role of higher education in economic mobility and racial equity. 
  • Opportunity Alignment: We developed a set of guiding frameworks along with detailed insights, supported by a series of short videos that amplify the experiences of current and potential students in their own words.
  • Idea Creation & Iterative Testing: We hosted concept generation sessions, producing over 400 concepts, and went through three rounds of prototyping to test ideas with over 20 potential and current students. 
  • Implementation-Ready Documentation: We synthesized feedback from users into a set of actionable concepts, supported by local and national benchmarks that will guide organizational alignment and investment as the New School rolls out. 

UCollege is testing a set of initial pilots beginning in summer 2020, with additional roll-out expected over the next two years.

The results that come from this process are different; they keep what people need on the table all the way through. For the Re-Imagine University College project, Public Design Bureau’s work on this was critical, leading us to new ways for the university to deliver education with an exclusive focus on St. Louis. The new program includes things like a more diverse faculty drawn from the community, interrupting online courses with in-person, community-based meetings, direct connections to regional employers, and more flexible facilities. 

Heather Corcoran, Vice Provost and Interim Dean of University College