Our Story

By August 16, 2015d.school

Shorter answer…

After years of caring about the subject and teaching a similar course at Cal for 8 years, one day over lunch in 2007 Dave Evans, well meaning Silicon Valley guy and frequent Stanford mentor, suggested we do something like this to Bill Burnett, recently named Design Program Executive Director. Bill immediately said, “Absolutely! This issue walks in my office every day! It’s a perfect application of design thinking. Let’s design a prototype course and launch this Fall.” So, we did.

Since then we’ve taught 4 different courses 8 times to Seniors, Masters students and Phd candidates (ME104, ME304, E311B with Professor Sheri Sheppard, and ME403B). ME104B is our first offering to the general undergrad community, inviting all Juniors and Seniors to benefit from applying design thinking to the challenge of a meaningful life and vocation after Stanford.

Longer answer…

Bill Burnett remembers when he was an undergrad back in the 70’s how excited he got when he discovered the Product Design major and a career trajectory for which he had honest enthusiasm. He hasn’t forgotten how important that experience was for him — and how often it doesn’t quite happen for students, even at Stanford. That’s a big part of why he’s been here for over thirty years working with students, while also having a career in design and Silicon Valley entrepreneurism.

Dave Evans remembers back (even a bit earlier) in the 70’s when he was an undergrad and had no idea what he was going to do after bailing out on a failing biology major. He graduated in Mechanical Engineering, frankly for lack of a better idea, and was always somewhat heartbroken and more than a little angry that he never found very good help during college with the question, “How do I figure out what I want to do with my life?”

Both Bill and Dave left Stanford and went off to start careers and families — but always had a hand in student work, Bill on campus, Dave on and off. Bill watched as hundreds of students came through office hours and had similar questions and a similar dismay struggling to find good help for figuring out life after graduation. After years of management consulting and helping start-ups find their way, Dave turned his attention to students again when he was invited to teach at UC Berkeley. He developed a course called, How to Find Your Vocation (aka: Is Your Calling Calling?) which he taught for 14 semesters. Still, he wanted to do more at Stanford. Along the way he and Bill had run into each other time and again in business and in their personal lives. Dave had heard that Bill had just accepted the position of Executive Director of the Stanford Program in Design, a program Dave knew well (his son graduated form the program). It occurred to Dave that the multi-disciplinary nature of design were likely to put design students under the burden of explaining who they were, job-wise, and trying to find a way to have a personally meaningful and authentic and viable career. Dave decided to call Bill, have lunch and share some of his ideas — just to see what might happen. If it went well, maybe they’d have more lunches on the topic and in perhaps a year or so something might come of it. It could happen…

Five minutes into that lunch, it was a done deal. They were going to partner to bring a new course to Stanford to apply design thinking to designing life after college — first to design students and if that went well, then to all students. It could happen…

It’s happening. Come and see what it’s all about, we’d love to have you join us in our journey to answer the question, “What do YOU want to be when you grow up?”