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Thesis Intensives: Shifting Mental Models

As we draw closer to our Spring ‘21 thesis show, our faculty is continuing last fall’s Thesis Intensive series. Our second years started this semester’s set with Jaimie Cloud–instructor of Environmental Ethics–facilitating a workshop on shifting mental models.

This intensive focused around the idea of mental models of unsustainability, which are categories of thinking that cause blockages to environmental progress in contrast with healthy thought processes and behaviors that lead to sustainable futures. These theories apply in many ways to everyday situations, and understanding them is useful for unleashing potential, building capability to thrive over time, and contributing to the health of the social and physical systems upon which our lives depend. 

Though there are many, some common day-to-day examples of these models would be “The Bummer”, which suggests a lack of power in situations, the “Theory of Confidence”, which relies on the idea that someone else will act first, and the “Social Trap”, which leads one to follow societal norms rather than acting on individual thought.

These models, of course, shift in moments of high pressure and crisis situations such as the global COVID-19 pandemic. The workshop functioned as a practice in adaptability by applying sustainable mental models to our second years’ real-world situations in order to turn problems into opportunities to create value. Developing these frameworks is particularly important to our students while developing thesis projects with community partners across the globe, and we’re looking forward to seeing where these new tools for positive creative thought take them this spring.

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