Life Design at BGSU: Senior relies on pillars of design thinking process to embrace all aspects of the journey toward graduate school admission
Nichole Hood reframes feelings of being ‘stuck’ to push forward - a crucial skill taught in the University’s Life Design program
By Laren Kowalczyk '07
This is an ongoing series on the impact Life Design has on students and how it is reshaping undergraduate education at BGSU.
Nichole Hood is a planner by nature, with every decision she makes strategically aligned with achieving her dream of pursuing a doctoral degree.
Hood, a Bowling Green State University senior and first-generation student, stays organized with a daily planner and whiteboard above her desk, detailing her various academic and extracurricular responsibilities. She sets alarms and reminders to ensure she doesn’t fall behind or miss something.
But like many students, Hood said there are days when she’s not as “on top of her game” as normal. She can usually shake the feeling in a day or two, except for several weeks this past summer when Hood said she had been feeling particularly down and couldn’t pinpoint the cause.
Then, in a conversation with one of her mentors, David Denison, a Life Design coach at BGSU, she realized the uncertainty surrounding her acceptance into graduate school could be the reason for her unsettling feelings.
“This is the first point in my life where I don’t know what’s coming next,” Hood said. “I have no idea what my future will be, which is really scary.”
Hood will graduate in the spring with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and is applying to doctoral programs in clinical psychology to someday work with veterans and prisoners.
Through the process, she’s leaned on Denison and the core principles of Life Design – an initiative at BGSU that helps students navigate the challenges they encounter to succeed in college and life.
Quelling uncertainty through reframing
Hood said her feelings of uncertainty about her future likely stemmed from her GRE scores, which weren’t as high as she hoped.
“I’m not a good standardized test taker. I just don’t do well in those situations,” Hood said. “When I got my scores back, I didn’t feel like retaking it was an option, and I just felt stuck.”
After talking with Denison, Hood began looking at her situation from another angle, which is referred to in Life Design as reframing.
Denison explained that reframing, which has been a crucial part of Hood’s journey, encourages students to step back and examine biases to open their minds to new solutions.
“I believe Nichole’s tremendous success in her academic and professional pursuits is in large part due to her desire to ask questions, her ability to embrace the process, suspend assumptions and recognize that when we get stuck - and we all get stuck from time to time - we can get unstuck,” Denison said.
Rather than letting her GRE score stop her from moving forward in the graduate school process, Hood is applying to schools that waive the requirement - an increasingly common trend at universities across the country. She has also developed multiple options, another pillar of the design thinking process that's referred to as "wayfinding pathways."
Students are encouraged to consider multiple pathways for the future, rather than focusing on one single plan.
“That practice really helps me stay open-minded and aware that there’s a possibility I might not get into graduate school this round,” Hood said. “Having other options ready in that scenario has helped put me at ease.”
Changing undergraduate education
With the goal of changing undergraduate education at BGSU, Life Design provides students with extra support in addition to traditional advising and academic resources. The program is designed to help students graduate in four years or less, minimize student debt and create a well-established career network.
Many students are introduced to the initiative through BGSU 1910: Life Design at BGSU, a first-year seminar that connects students with a Life Design coach and introduces them to design thinking skills to maximize their college experience and enhance career readiness.
The University received a transformative gift in 2022 from alumni philanthropist Geoff Radbill ‘68 to support Life Design. This generous gift has allowed the University to expand its initiative, changing the higher education paradigm and establishing BGSU as the first university in the country to offer Life Design on such a broad scale.
Newly opened in January 2023, the Geoffrey H. Radbill Center for College and Life Design, located in the Mathematical Sciences Building in the heart of the University, features an inclusive and collaborative space for students to work with Life Design coaches.
Since 2020, more than 2,000 students of various backgrounds, ability levels and majors have been assigned a Life Design coach. The role of a Life Design coach is to help students make connections, jump-start their careers and promote the critical thinking skills necessary to navigate problems and discover workable solutions.
Leading by example
Hood regularly applies Life Design principles to her own life and is helping first-year students do the same as an ambassador for the program.
She facilitated weekly BGSU 1910 classes with Denison in the fall, helping to introduce various design thinking topics and engage with the students in hands-on activities.
“There are a lot of career-based topics that we focus on to help students succeed in their major and their classes, but there is also a significant focus on real life as well,” Hood said. “It is so important for first-year students to develop these skills, so when they encounter challenges or problems down the road, they’re equipped with the tools to overcome them.
“Reframing has become a daily part of my life to the point where I don’t even think about it being a part of Life Design. It’s just a skill I have."
Updated: 02/09/2023 10:13AM