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You Can Come Home Again: Alums Return for a Special Lecture Night

Alumni Pragya Mishra, Josh Treuhaft, Rhea Rakshit, Sebastian Barrera and Akshata Malhotra returned to DSI last month for an exchange of knowledge and insights at the DSI Global Guest Lecture. They spoke to both current cohorts about their jobs, their journey, their passions, the wicked problems they’re working to solve, and how what they learned at DSI is helping them succeed.

Pragya and Sebastian began the lecture with an overview of their work in global health and access to finance, as designers at the Design Impact Group at Dalberg Global Advisors. Talking through the process at DIG, Pragya says, “everything I learned at DSI is used,” including systems thinking, visualization, prototyping, strategy development, and design research.

Rhea Rakshit, designer at ProjectJust, an online platform for sustainable fashion, described being at a start-up as “like doing thesis but being paid for it.” Asked for her best advice on working successfully with clients, she believes successful social designers must exercise humility, be vulnerable, and listen.

As the only designer at the Peterson Center on Healthcare, Akshata shared how she answers the frequently asked question, “but what do you really do?”, and told the current classes that, as social designers, they have the ability to not only design their own future, but to change the culture and processes within an organization.

Josh Treuhaft is working on projects influencing the lives of people around the world as part of the Foresight team at Arup, which functions as an internal think-tank and consultancy, looking at the future trends and disruptors within the built environment and society at large. Josh explained how social designers are uniquely well-suited to keeping the person as the focus of a project, and how the design tool kit is helpful in bringing people from different perspectives or speaking different languages to consensus. His best advice was to try always to have a bias towards action, and avoid getting bogged down in the day-to-day business of office life.

Following their presentations, the alums spent time answering current students’ questions on everything from understanding which tools from the design toolkit to use in different situations, to their different career trajectories and the new opportunities for social impact designers in areas from fashion to healthcare, before wrapping up with conversations and networking over supper in the DSI kitchen.

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