BGSU graduate uses Life Design thinking to forge her own path

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – A Bowling Green State University graduate is crediting Life Design—a campus-wide initiative that helps students work through big questions of what they want to do and who they want to become by using design thinking—for helping her successfully navigate academic and life changes at the University. BGSU is the only university in the nation offering Life Design on such a broad scale.

Like many college students, Rachel Durbin ’23 kept arriving at a crossroads about her major, unsure which direction to go.

Even though the metro Detroit native always was a high-performing student, Durbin felt indecisive during her first two years of college about what she would do for a career. 

She applied to BGSU as a business major, but before she arrived on campus, she switched to education. On orientation day, she switched the level of education from early childhood to middle childhood, aiming to become a math and science teacher. On the first day of her calculus class, she left feeling certain she could never teach math, and promptly changed her path to adolescent and young adult social studies.

Though she liked her professors, enjoyed classes and the material resonated with her, Durbin couldn’t shake the feeling that she was heading somewhere she didn’t actually want to go.

“I did all that for a while and loved it — I love social studies and love government — but at the end of my sophomore year, I read the Life Design book, 'Designing Your Life,'” she said. “I was doing some Life Design things and really thought to myself, ‘Do I really want to teach for the rest of my life?’ 

“A lot of my values align with teaching, but I wasn’t sure that was exactly what I wanted to do.”

Originally, Durbin had planned to forge ahead and earn her degree in education, but do something else after college — which she came to believe would have been a disservice to everyone involved.

“That was a tough pill to swallow because values are big to me — but I thought of values very narrow-mindedly,” she said. “I knew my values aligned with teaching, but I didn’t see how they aligned with other things. I enjoy government and political science, which is why I wanted to be a social studies teacher, but it maybe wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. 

“It was Life Design that helped me define, ‘These are my values, so where can I find them someplace else?’”

Durbin enjoyed the Life Design thought process so much that she made improving access to the program the core focus of her Honors College project. The initiative is available to all undergraduate students at BGSU.

Two years after coming into contact with the program, Durbin answered her own questions. She is graduating from BGSU with a double major in communication and political science, after which she will be attending the Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

As an undergraduate, Durbin clerked at Wood County Court of Common Pleas and interned with the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office, experiences that gave her insight into what someone can do with a law degree.

"During her internship, Rachel made connections across cases, across different actors in the judicial process, and that’s all rooted in her skills and tool kit," said BGSU assistant professor of political science Dr. Joshua Boston. "We were lucky to have her in political science, and her skills and dispositions will take her far in law school. 

"I think the amazing thing about Rachel is that her skills and predispositions can be applied to so many different opportunities."

Though she isn’t quite set on one particular area of law for a career, Durbin said her BGSU experience taught her there are many ways to achieve professional fulfillment. 

“One part of the book that really resonated with me is that there is no wrong path,” she said. “You always think, ‘I was destined to be one thing,’ but there’s not just one path — there are a lot of paths that will make you happy."

Updated: 05/18/2023 09:18AM