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Endowment for K-12 outreach

Professor David and Lisa McDonald establish a new endowment fund to introduce the next generation of students to HCDE.

Two students in a design charetteEnsuring a diverse, passionate, and well-prepared pipeline of students into the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering requires a sustained effort to inspire interest and understanding of the user-centered design process and engineering in middle and high school students. Through outreach, HCDE is introducing K-12 students to engineering professions related to HCDE’s degrees and how these professions might align with their interests and abilities. In 2019, Professor David McDonald (Department Chair 2014-2019) and his wife Lisa McDonald established an endowed fund to support HCDE’s K-12 outreach initiatives in perpetuity.

“I consider HCDE’s K-12 outreach efforts one of the very best things I was able to launch in my time as Department Chair,” McDonald said. “The summer I started as Chair, HCDE Endowment for K-12 outreach faculty member Andy Davidson came to my office and pitched having our own HCDE students visit middle schools and high schools to introduce young people to HCDE methods through design charettes. I might not always have brilliant ideas, but I recognized this one.”

Over the past five years, Davidson has led dozens of teams of HCDE students in the design and facilitation of outreach efforts, by now reaching thousands of young learners across the state of Washington.

“Building the broader UX field, increasing participation, all through helping students understand human- centered design early on—it is an obvious win for the Department,” McDonald said. “It is amazing to see the impact that these outreach efforts have on both the younger students and our own HCDE students.”

A key component of HCDE’s outreach program is that it empowers current HCDE students to develop and teach outreach workshops for younger students. The workshops, taking the form of a design charette, are fast- paced, hands-on, and are customized for each group of participants. Activities are centered around foundational aspects of the user-centered design process, including design thinking, user research, and prototyping. The charettes are tailored to fit the needs and interests of the students and can be adapted to suit different grade levels and classroom settings.

“It was easy to settle on establishing the HCDE K-12 Outreach Endowment,” McDonald said. “I feel that one of the best ways to help middle and high schoolers understand our field is by having a grounded design experience that the design charettes provide.”

“My hope is that the endowment will provide support for the ongoing efforts of faculty and students by creating an institutionalized backing to help make sure there is support to continue these important efforts,” McDonald said. “I would love to see both HCDE’s outreach efforts and the endowment grow—and with time, I’m certain they will.” 

Join the McDonalds in investing in the next generation of HCDE students. To make a gift to the K-12 Outreach Endowment, contact Zoe Bartholomew at zfinnb@uw.edu or call 206.221.5072.