Life Design at BGSU: Executive director’s own educational journey laid foundation for her future as a leader in life design
Adrienne Ausdenmoore has been instrumental in redefining student success through Life Design
By Laren Kowalczyk '07
Although she didn’t realize it at the time, as an undergraduate, Adrienne Ausdenmoore designed her life using the very skills she now champions as a tangible way to transform undergraduate education at Bowling Green State University.
She applied several core principles of design thinking - a creative problem-solving framework based on the methods and processes designers use - at critical stages in her educational journey.
She was curious, open-minded and created opportunities and experiences that incorporated her many interests, even if they didn’t align perfectly with her degree path. She took calculated risks and embraced the process.
“In many ways, I was designing my life without knowing what it was called,” Ausdenmoore said. “I was a graphic design major, but I had a lot of other interests, so I was always looking for opportunities to blend those passions together.”
A leader in life design
She continued to foster those skills, building a successful career in higher education and becoming a nationally known thought leader in life design principles.
Ausdenmoore is now spearheading Life Design at BGSU as executive director of the Geoffrey H. Radbill Center for College and Life Design. Launched in Fall 2020, Life Design provides students with extra support in addition to traditional advising and academic resources and is an integral part of the University’s Forward. strategic plan to redefine student success.
“We recognize that college is hard work and building a network and a career is also hard work,” Ausdenmoore said. “We want students to feel confident in their ability to succeed in college and their careers, and Life Design at BGSU is a key part of that equation.”
The program is modeled after the Life Design Lab at Stanford University and is designed to help students graduate in four years or less, minimize student debt and create a well-established career network.
In 2017, Ausdenmoore attended Stanford’s inaugural Life Design Studio - a program for higher education professionals interested in bringing life design to their academic institutions.
Using what she learned at Stanford, Ausdenmoore designed, piloted and taught her own version of the Designing Your Life course at the University of Dayton. At the time, she was the director of the university's Institute of Applied Creativity for Transformation (IACT) integrating design thinking principles to foster creative problem-solving and collaboration among students in any field of study.
Her career trajectory at the University of Dayton, where she’s a two-time alumna with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a master’s degree in business administration, began when she accepted a role as an administrative assistant in a living-learning community that eventually evolved into IACT.
“It wasn’t in the expected path of my major, but it sounded interesting to me,” she said. “If you had told me then it would lead me to where I am now, I wouldn’t have believed it. As we tell our students, you never quite know where your network and opportunities are going to take you. A significant part of Life Design includes fostering the different aspects of a student’s college experience beyond what their major is.
“I want to make sure every college student has the same types of experiences and opportunities that I had so they can explore their interests and curiosities while also building their dream career.”
Ausdenmoore returned in 2019 to coach at Stanford's Life Design Studio, where she developed lasting partnerships with educators at Yale University, Johns Hopkins University, Texas A&M University-Commerce, Trinity College and Tulane University.
Ausdenmoore is a core member of the global life design community. She serves as an advisor and coach for Stanford’s Life Design Studio for University Educators, contributes to the Studio Equity and Inclusion working group and is a member of the Studio Advisory Board - a core group of educators who provide feedback to the Stanford team about new curricular prototypes.
Her work with university administrators and educators across the country propels others to create life design programs at their institutions.
“Adrienne brings whole-hearted enthusiasm and frank sharing about how she has approached building life design into her own life and work. It is a powerful combination. She enables new members of the life design community to have confidence and just get started - to prototype," said Kathy Davies, managing director of the Life Design Lab at Stanford University.
“I consistently reach out to Adrienne because she brings both expertise and joy to the process. She makes life design approachable and fun. Our work has taken off globally in part because trailblazers like Adrienne are sharing their time, care and wisdom with the full Life Design Studio community. We’re lucky to have her in the mix.”
Setting the example
Since joining the University in January 2022, Ausdemoore has been instrumental in establishing BGSU as a national leader in life design.
“BGSU is often looked to as a model of what other universities hope to emulate, and to know we’re setting the example of what student success can be is incredibly rewarding. We want our students to build tangible career skills through internships and experiential learning opportunities. We want them to explore passions outside of their degree."
-- Adrienne Ausdenmoore, executive director of the Geoffrey H. Radbill Center for College and Life Design
“Over time, as we help them build creative problem-solving skills, collaboration skills and develop a design thinking mindset, students are better able to overcome challenges they face to find success at BGSU and beyond,” Ausdenmoore said.
More than 2,000 students of various backgrounds, ability levels and majors have been assigned a Life Design coach since the program launched in 2020, with many introduced through the University’s first-year seminar BGSU 1910: Life Design at BGSU.
“Students have found a lot of benefit in having someone on their team who is invested in them as a human,” Ausdenmoore said. “Life Design is not tied to a specific major or program. We are fundamentally here for the student and to help them figure out what is important to them and how to help them get where they want to go.”
Alumni philanthropist Geoff Radbill ‘68 made a transformative gift in 2022 to support Life Design, allowing the University to continue changing the higher education paradigm and establishing BGSU as the first university in the country to offer Life Design on such a broad scale.
The unprecedented gift helped support the construction of the newly opened Geoffrey H. Radbill Center for College and Life Design in the Mathematical Sciences Building in the heart of campus.
Ausdenmoore envisions the center becoming a focal point for students to gather between classes, attend programming and meet with their Life Design coaches.
“We want students to find their place at BGSU,” she said. “Countless students have already benefited greatly from their experiences with Life Design, and as the program grows and evolves, there’s boundless potential to increase our impact. We want to provide students with more than a degree; we want to empower them to design a future.”
Updated: 02/03/2023 12:08PM