A speaker stands in front of a screen that reads 'Student Experience Design Initiative'.
A speaker stands in front of a screen that reads 'Student Experience Design Initiative'.
Client
New York University
OFFER
Creative Capabilities
Breakthrough Products
INDUSTRY
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< Work

Student-Centered Solutions

How an organizational culture change is helping newbies at NYU navigate campus life.

NYU prides itself on being a university where individual students decide their own paths, supported by administrators and faculty and programs aimed to help them succeed. Yet, for first-year students, the experience of trying to access resources felt more like navigating a “tsunami of services.” Every department had good intentions, but operated independently, creating a fragmented undergraduate experience that left overwhelmed students to sort through droves of well-intentioned emails a week. To address the issue, NYU and IDEO hosted a week of on-campus pop-ups and workshops with 400 students who shared their ideas. The biggest takeaway: The university wasn't under-resourced, it was under-organized. That insight sparked a shift in how NYU operates. Making student voices the central motivator helped the school’s many operational departments come together around a common cause: streamlining tools to help students navigate their first months on campus. The work made students feel "heard, not tallied," and paved the way for innovation that meets their needs—which turned out to be surprisingly simple.

Client
New York University
PROGRESS

New Services

in-production, including centralized calendars, dynamic campus mapping, and customized notifications

Design Thinking Cohorts

Now support the student experience
the challenge

the outcome

impact

Press
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A group of diverse new students talk to NYU and IDEO about the challenges they've faced while starting their first school year at NYU.

First-year students reported receiving hundreds of paper forms, and email from more than 70 unique senders.

NYU needed to offer students the right resources at the right time—and collaborate to serve them as a unified administration.

The resources that NYU students needed were organized by administrative department, and buried on disparate websites and calendars. But students don’t think in terms of departments—they just need to know where their classes are.

All of this became patently clear as IDEO shadowed students. Team members visited classrooms, walked with them through their days, and hosted pop-ups in highly trafficked areas to get ideas from passersby. That helped the team develop a common understanding of the overall student journey and grounded employees in the key moments that can either make or break a student’s experience. Visualizing their journey helped departments gain a shared understanding of the fractured communications challenge and develop possible solutions.

To synthesize those insights, we formed cross-functional action learning groups, challenging existing practices at the university and coming up with new ways of working. Participants came from a diverse set of departments, including enrollment management, student affairs, marketing and communications, IT, global inclusion, student services, the provost’s office, digital communications, and more. The cohorts sketched early hypotheses and got feedback from faculty, administrators, and students from all of NYU's undergraduate schools to refine initial concepts.

Collaborating with students gave staff a first-hand look at what students were struggling with and a way to engage students directly in addressing those challenges. Just as importantly, there was an overall culture shift at NYU: Administrators started with questions instead of agendas, came together around a table, and reached beyond their job descriptions to meet the needs of students.

The resources that NYU students needed were organized by administrative department, and buried on disparate websites and calendars. But students don’t think in terms of departments—they just need to know where their classes are.

All of this became patently clear as IDEO shadowed students. Team members visited classrooms, walked with them through their days, and hosted pop-ups in highly trafficked areas to get ideas from passersby. That helped the team develop a common understanding of the overall student journey and grounded employees in the key moments that can either make or break a student’s experience. Visualizing their journey helped departments gain a shared understanding of the fractured communications challenge and develop possible solutions.

To synthesize those insights, we formed cross-functional action learning groups, challenging existing practices at the university and coming up with new ways of working. Participants came from a diverse set of departments, including enrollment management, student affairs, marketing and communications, IT, global inclusion, student services, the provost’s office, digital communications, and more. The cohorts sketched early hypotheses and got feedback from faculty, administrators, and students from all of NYU's undergraduate schools to refine initial concepts.

Collaborating with students gave staff a first-hand look at what students were struggling with and a way to engage students directly in addressing those challenges. Just as importantly, there was an overall culture shift at NYU: Administrators started with questions instead of agendas, came together around a table, and reached beyond their job descriptions to meet the needs of students.

A map of New York City that shows dynamic, filterable NYU locations
Throughout 2023, the NYU team is working to further test and bring some of the prioritized features to life: building a more dynamic, filterable map of NYU locations, and sharing key administrative dates and events on students’ calendars.
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“This project provided the opportunity to redefine our internal working relationships. We pushed ourselves to design for the student experience, not what worked best for us.”

NYU administrator
A new NYU student holds up large pieces of paper with prototypes of the new app on them.
PRESS LINKS
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